Singapore has been very vocal about its electrification plans, with plans underway to set up 60,000 EV charging points islandwide and the rollout of various government grants to incentivise EV adoption.
As Singapore looks to phase out petrol cars in the next two decades, many companies in the transport space have announced plans to jump onboard the EV bandwagon.
Where does ride-hailing giant Grab sit in this spectrum and how is it exactly contributing to the national EV agenda?
Earlier in July, Grab had announced its Transport Sustainability Goal, committing to operate a full fleet running on cleaner energy by 2030.
The Singapore-headquartered company has also launched a series of initiatives that are in line with Singapore’s Green Plan 2030, which includes a roadmap for electric vehicles (EV) and the goal of having all vehicles run on greener energy by 2040.
In an email interview with Vulcan Post, Andrew Chan, managing director of transport at Grab Singapore, outlined reducing carbon emissions as the company’s first step.
“We have already invested more than US$200 million to increase the number of electric and hybrid vehicles in our car rental fleet in Singapore and will continue to do so,” he said.
In line with this, Grab has also launched a JustGrab Green pilot in July 2021, which is serviced by a fleet that comprises electric or hybrid vehicles of a minimal VES A2 band. Some of the cars include Hyundai Kona Electric, Toyota Prius, and Kia Niro Hybrid.
The Green Programme is an option for riders to add an additional S$0.10 to their fare to contribute to eco-friendly projects to help reduce carbon footprint.
He cited that carbon emissions from a hybrid or electric vehicle can be reduced by an estimated 55 per cent when compared to a conventional petrol vehicle.
According to Andrew, consumer response for this has been encouraging so far with a “healthy mix” of existing and new passengers trying out the feature.
Since launch, Grab has seen weekly opt-in rides increased by more than 400 per cent, and the unique number of passengers who have opted in for this feature have also grown close to six times.
“We will continue to explore innovative ways to encourage passengers to consider this carbon offsetting feature when booking a ride. In addition, iterations to the app’s UX and UI will also be made to improve the visibility of the new programmes, as well as the ease of opting in to them,” he added.
The second step that Grab is undertaking is to neutralise carbon emissions with the launch of the Green Programme. The full contribution under this programme will go towards carbon offset and solarisation projects in Singapore and the region.
For one, Grab is collaborating with Sembcorp Industries to support the rooftop solarisation of community institutions in Singapore. This collaboration includes jointly identifying solarisation projects between the two companies, and Sembcorp will help to develop, operate and maintain the solar systems.
Grab is also working with Shell to purchase carbon credits generated from the Katingan Mentaya Project in Indonesia.
The project restores natural forests and conserves peatland habitats, preventing the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to 447 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over 60 years. The project also helps local communities create jobs, improve soil quality, and food production.
Last but not least, Grab is ramping up its education and advocacy efforts.
“We are continually looking at different ways to drive greater awareness of sustainability-related topics and adoption of green programmes amongst our consumers,” he said.
Andrew acknowledged that Grab its driver-partners have raised several concerns with regards to EVs, such as “high costs, lack of charging locations, and long waiting times for charging”.
They also had initial concerns around range anxiety, though that has since been “quickly allayed as drivers acclimated to using EVs and using breaks and as opportunities to do a quick charge,” he added.
He stressed that since Singapore is a small country, range anxiety is not a significant issue. Instead, driver-partners are more concerned about not being able to find a charging station when they need one, or the duration required to charge a vehicle.
As such, Grab has taken a “proactive approach” to information and educating its driver-partners about the benefits of EVs through in-app notifications.
“A 30-minute charge time is more than enough for a whole day’s driving (and) when completely charged, the driver may travel around 400km — which is approximately 10 full marathons, or 10 trips between Jurong West to Changi Airport,” he quipped.
Grab is currently exploring different options to make EVs commercially viable in the long run, such as corporate partnerships and government engagements.
Grab and Hyundai Motor Group have expanded their partnership to accelerate regional adoption of EVs.
They are looking at piloting new EV business models such as battery-as-a-service and EV financing, though Andrew declined to share more details on this.
Grab will also develop new pilots and initiatives that lower the barriers of entry for Grab driver and delivery-partners to adopt EVs, such as lowering the total cost of ownership and reducing range anxiety.
In addition, both companies will explore collaboration in new business opportunities and technologies such as smart city solutions.
“We have (also) been working closely with various government agencies and the union to share our ideas and offer support wherever possible. Grab is aware that the National Electric Vehicle Centre (NEVC) will spearhead efforts to increase EV adoption, and we are in conversation with them about contributing our insights to the establishment of a robust EV ecosystem in Singapore.”
Beyond NEVC, Grab also maintains close relationships with various authorities including the Ministry of Transport, Land Transport Authority as well as National Private Hire Vehicles Association, to provide its perspectives and support wherever possible.
“The transition to EVs is a team effort and it requires collaboration between key players including the government, charging infrastructure providers, property owners, ride-hailing companies, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs),” said Andrew.
EVs are no longer a matter of if, but when, and we must be ready to embrace it.
Andrew highlighted that there are a couple of things that must be done first before Singapore can witness an increase in EV adoption.
Beyond expanding the network of EV charging points, more comprehensive education campaigns, and collaboration with like-minded commercial and the public sector as mentioned above, Grab is also enhancing incentive programmes for its P2P drivers.
For instance, driver-partners who rent an EV through GrabRentals will benefit from a heavily discounted rental cost.
In addition, Grab’s private-hire car drivers can also enjoy a preferential discount at SP Group’s EV charging stations.
Grab is also looking to deploy innovative solutions that can help decouple the cost of the battery from the cost of the vehicle.
Battery-as-a-service is one, but there are also other areas to look at, such as “second life” market for car batteries and recycling market for the component materials used in batteries, noted Andrew.
While there are no concrete plans for Grab to venture into these areas for now, it might be a viable business plan down the road as it looks to strengthen its EV commitment in Singapore and across the region.
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Featured Image Credit: Grab
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