Tesla is probably one of the sexiest automobile brand right now, at least in this part of the world where the brand is not available yet. In his recent tour to San Francisco, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also spent some time visiting Tesla.
With its popularity, one would expect to see Tesla on the roads of Singapore, especially since Tesla is equipped with smart driving system, and is an electric car which produces zero emissions - in line with Singapore's Smart Nation initiative as well as green city aspiration.
In a recent article published on Stuff Singapore, the team spoke to an IT-professional Joe Nguyen, who managed to get a Tesla Model S licensed to be on the roads of Singapore. But that was without all the red tape and long approval process he had to go through first.
How long? Seven long months.
How it all began
According to the article on Stuff, Joe purchased the 2014 model S from Hong Kong more than a year back. Here's how a Tesla S looks like:
Once he managed to buy the car, he shipped it back to Singapore, and paid the necessary customs duties on it.
However, Joe revealed to Stuff Singapore that that was the easy part. The tough part followed where he had to deal with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for the necessary approvals so that he can drive his Tesla S in Singapore.
"The first few weeks, the car just sat in a warehouse gathering dust while the LTA asked me for lots of paperwork," Joe told Stuff Singapore.
Paperworks from LTA to EMA to VICOM
What started from the paperworks requirement from LTA soon saw Joe providing various paperwork requests such as emissions, certificate of conformity, vehicle specs and more. After the paperworks, LTA then required Joe to check in with the Energy Market Authority (EMA), since Tesla is an electric car and EMA is the agency in charge of the energy sector in Singapore.
"I was told to call them (EMA) so I called them and they thought that I was an importer. And I said, "No, I'm just a normal individual importing a car," Joe told Stuff Singapore.
Shortly after that, there were no news from EMA, and Joe was then referred by LTA to VICOM in order to get his Tesla tested for emissions. VICOM is a subsidiary of ComfortDelGro Corporation Limited, and is in charge of technical testing and inspection services for vehicles in Singapore.
However, the whole inspection process with VICOM took a few months as the checking was put on hold.
According to its website, VICOM, a publicly listed on Singapore's stock exchange since 1995, claims to be the first in the world to employ a computerised and integrated vehicle inspection system more than 25 years ago. Over 300,000 vehicle checks are conducted at their centres annually.
"I figured they had a process for electric cars because there are actual electric cars in Singapore, there's the Nissan Leaf, RND cars, there's Mitsubishi electric cars. But since my Tesla was not brand new, it had to go to VICOM and they admitted that they had never tested an electric car before so they did not know how to proceed," Joe told Stuff Singapore.
Since a testing on Tesla has never been done before, LTA and VICOM then did a discharge test to see how much electricity the car consumes and needed Joe to sign a declaration that he will only be charging his Tesla at home.
"They were afraid I would charge the car in a public place," Joe told Stuff Singapore.
According to the Stuff article, Nguyen's car was not eligible for the $15,000 electric cars usually received, but he was charged an extra $15,000 tax as his Tesla was deemed a non-fuel efficient car.
Nguyen told Stuff that VICOM results stated that his car was consuming 444 watt hour/km, and this was converted to CO2 emission.
However, Nguyen said that according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Tesla only consumes 237 watt hour/km.
Only legal Tesla car in Singapore
The whole process from shipping his car into Singapore, getting the approval, checking the emission requirements, and finally signing a declaration, took seven months, and Joe is now probably the only person that can drive a Tesla in Singapore legally. It is also bizarre how there are no procedure in place to legalize or test electric cars in Singapore.
We thought Singapore should be a lot more progressive than this by now? Aren't there hybrid automobile roaming the roads of Singapore now?
Stuff Singapore also pointed out that back in 2011, Tesla did open an office here in Singapore, however, it closed its operations 6 months later.
Tesla came to Singapore believing they would be able to secure some kind of 'green tax incentive' from the Singapore Government which would make their car considerably cheaper than the petrol powered competition. Without incentives, Tesla was too expensive even for automobile enthusiasts.
The official reason from the Economic Development Board of Singapore in 2011 was that the Tesla had 'not met technical requirements' for the tax incentive.
So will we see other Teslas on the roads of Singapore soon? It will probably take at least a while before that happens. Hopefully after PM's recent ride on Tesla's Model S in San Francisco, things will change for the better soon.