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As S’pore ramps up its EV agenda, are the different industries ready to embrace this change?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are increasingly being adopted in the world, and governments are busy aiding the transition from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.

Singapore is no different, with the government putting out several incentives for EV purchases and offering EV infrastructure grants. It aims to phase out ICE vehicles by 2040, and have all vehicles run on cleaner energy, but this transition is not without its costs.

Many companies would have to make this transition — from transport and logistics companies, to car servicing workshops — and adapt to a new reality where EVs are not just the norm, but the only option available.

So how are these companies coping with the changes, and what are they doing in response to this EV transition?

Public transport and taxi services

The most obvious sector that will be affected is the transport sector, and the impact is not insignificant.

Singaporeans mostly rely on public transport to get to where they need, and sometimes taxi services as well to supplement their public transport journey.

In turn, these companies depend on huge fleets of vehicles to service the needs of Singapore’s population. There is an estimated 16,000 taxis and 19,000 buses in Singapore, so for all the vehicles to make the transition to EVs, will be no small feat.

electric bus singapore
Electric buses in Singapore / Image Credit: Land Transport Guru

Transport companies such as SMRT and SBS have already begun embracing the transition. In conjunction with the Land Transport Authority (LTA), SMRT and SBS both operate bus routes with electric buses, and have EV chargers for the buses installed at bus interchanges.

LTA has also announced that half of all buses will be electric by 2030, and that from now till 2030, new buses purchased will primarily be electric.

The taxi industry is no different, with SMRT’s Strides Taxi already having rolled out electric taxis last year.

ComfortDelGro, the largest taxi company in Singapore by vehicle fleet, has also announced plans to increase its EV fleet, and expressed that part of the reason why such a move is a good time is because the lack of EV infrastructure in Singapore is now being addressed.

Local ride-hailing companies have also been busy adapting to the EV transition. Grab has invested more than US$200 million in electrifying its car rental fleet.

As part of this investment, it has 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.

Grab is also currently exploring different options to make EVs commercially viable in the long run, such as corporate partnerships and government engagements.

Similarly, Gojek has pledged to be carbon-free by 2030 through partnerships and favourable lease agreements. It has also indicated its interest in working with government agencies to reduce carbon emissions and build up EV charging infrastructure.

Logistics services 

Another sector that relies heavily on vehicles is the logistics industry. Logistics companies such as Ninja Van have large fleets of company vehicles in order to make deliveries, and with the rise of e-commerce, the need for logistics services has never been greater.

Lalamove for one, has 55,000 drivers islandwide and a vehicle fleet to match. These vehicles will also need to be replaced by EVs over time.

Given the need for vehicles to be constantly on the move, one of the key concerns for logistics companies is the lack of charging infrastructure in Singapore. Without sufficient charging infrastructure, vehicles would not be able to quickly respond to delivery requests, and customers would have deliveries delayed.

Infrastructure is one of the important elements businesses would consider before making the switch to an electric fleet, and we believe the availability of adequate numbers of fast-charging EV stations to be a critical component for mass adoption.

– Lee Ghim Hock, Chief Operating Officer for Ninja Van Singapore

But this does not mean that Ninja Van is resisting the EV transition. In contrast, Ninja Van is working on their sustainability efforts, and is considering various options.

“Ninja Van is at an early stage of its sustainability journey and we are looking to see which ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) issues have an impact on us in the short-, mid- and long-term, with EVs being one of the areas of consideration,” he added.

Clearly, there are many things to consider, and the infrastructure is not yet in place for a full transition to make sense. Other sustainability issues, such as packaging, may take precedence.

ninja van eco packs
Ninja Van’s eco packs is part of their sustainability efforts / Image Credits: Ninja Van

Ninja Van has also expressed that they are willing to transition to EVs, and may potentially pilot an EV trial.

So what can be done to smoothen the transition for logistics providers? In particular, infrastructure seems to be a significant cost driver.

Given the size of logistics fleets and the comparative inconvenience of finding a charging station, government aid here would be helpful to show that speeding up the transition to EVs would be helpful not just to the environment, but also to these companies’ bottom lines.

Auxiliary car services

Companies that rely on vehicle fleets are hardly the only ones affected. The transition to EVs includes all vehicles in Singapore, and given that there are more than 600,000 private cars in Singapore, there is a significant car servicing industry built around the demands of private car owners.

As most vehicles are currently ICE vehicles, there would need to be a significant shift as workshops shift from servicing ICE vehicles to servicing EVs.

carro workshop
An upgraded Carro workshop that is intended to help them service EVs / Image Credit: Carro

A spokesperson for Carro, a car reseller and servicer, has stated that the company has had to make some changes to better help customers who drive EVs.

We invest heavily in our service centres to ensure that we can confidently and safely handle EVs. Our service centres are equipped with triple phase, 32 amperes charging infrastructure to ensure (the) fast turnover of EVs during servicing.

They are (also) fitted with professional extraction systems for battery fumes, which are biologically harmful and can cause irritation, skin burns, breathing difficulties, and even blindness.

– Dr Bryan Tan, Chief Scientist at Carro

In addition, Carro also recently upgraded its lifting equipment to deal with the heavier weight of EVs.

According to Carro, EVs still require servicing, and service workshops like themselves are adapting and adjusting to become more EV-focused.

Instead of focusing on oil change and brakes, servicing workshops can focus on electrical-based servicing such as charging connection and wiring inspections, or general services such as wheel alignment and tire treads instead.

There are still other parts in the EVs that will need replacement over time (such as) suspensions. EVs also experience wear and tear (just like) regular cars. We are expanding our capabilities to include body and paint, and EV electrical diagnostics for all EV cars. This will enable us to better assist EV drivers.

– Kyran Wong, Country Manager for Carro

What can be done to smoothen the EV transition?

Singapore’s EV transition is already in motion, and there is no stopping that. However, industries would need some support to smooth that transition, especially companies that currently have large ICE vehicle fleets.

As new technology develops, older technologies become less appealing and obsolete. The EV transition is one such step that we are taking, and it is significantly affecting many industries — some of them old, and some of them new.

It seems that the business community has embraced the change, there is definitely more that can, and should, be done. For instance, grants, tax credits, and incentives for early adoption of EVs and construction of EV infrastructure would be helpful. The EV transition is a time-sensitive matter, and as such, policies should reflect this to reward early adopters and punish later adopters.

As Daren Yoong, a prominent EV advocate and YouTuber puts it: “(The) Singapore government is the most supportive of all governments in Southeast Asia on EV adoption, as evidenced by our petrol car ban in 2040 and LTA’s plan to install 60,000 EV chargers by 2030.”

“Singapore usually aims to be world-class, not just a regional standard. Singapore (also) usually aims to be the best in the world, not just Southeast Asia.”

Featured Image Credit: Jefferson Tan via Facebook

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