Sustainable Living

The Buzz On Electric Vehicles: Do The Costs Outweigh Environmental Benefits?

We have seen all the buzz in the latest news on electric vehicles (EVs).

Some car owners in Singapore have recently gotten their hands on the latest Tesla Model 3 EV in the final week of July 2021. The number of new EV owners in Singapore was reported to have significantly increased from 0.3% in 2020 to 1.3% in 2021. (P.S Did you know,  EVs have been around in Singapore since 2016?) Our government is providing huge financial incentives and new charging infrastructure to encourage EV ownership.

electric vehicle infographic singapore

Source: Vulcan Post

All these supportive measures are in line with Singapore’s ambitious energy reset goals in the Singapore Green Plan 2030 since its release in February 2021. For isnstance, all new car registrations are required to be cleaner-energy models from 2030. And the targeted number of electric vehicle charging points will be doubled by 2030.

Car sellers and experts claim EVs to be environmentally friendly, so you may think it will be a valuable green asset for your family or company. Yet, electric cars accounted for only 2.6% of global car sales and about 1% of global car stock in 2019.

You may then wonder, is it really worth the value of your hard-earned money to purchase an EV? Is it practical to own one? Will EVs be able to withstand Singapore’s sweltering heat? And most importantly, are EVs truly environmentally friendly?

Well, let’s find out more!

What Type of Electric Vehicles Are There?

There are three common but different types of EVs, all of which have different degrees of environmental sustainability. These are battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

From left to right: Tesla Model 3, Volvo XC90, and BMW i8. Source: EV Duniya

BEVs operate entirely on electricity and do not have fuel tank, exhaust pipe nor internal combustion engine. HEVs have a fuel-based engine and an electric motor with a battery. HEVs first operate using electricity on starting, but the fuel engine only functions when the vehicle attains a certain level of speed.

PHEVs are a combination of BEVs and HEVs, comprising of an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. The difference between PHEVs and HEVs is that a PHEV can travel further on electrical energy. This is because PHEV has a larger battery size and an enhanced ability to recharge from the electricity grid.

 

Are Electric Vehicles Environmentally Friendly?

EVs emit 22% less carbon dioxide than diesel-fuelled vehicles, and 28% less carbon dioxide than petrol-fuelled vehicles. So, EVs do produce less air pollution and greenhouse gases than conventional vehicle types.

While EVs release zero exhaust emissions, some greenhouse gases are produced during the charging process.

PHEVs and HEVs require some fuel or gas to operate, and all EVs in Singapore currently operate on electricity powered by natural gas, which also releases greenhouse gas emissions during production. This, therefore, sparks the controversial debate of whether EVs are truly environmentally friendly.

Although the Singapore government plans to strengthen the EV charging infrastructure by constructing more EV stations across the island, therefore potentially increasing the amount of greenhouse gases being produced, the government is also pushing for a transition from liquefied natural gas to solar energy and other cleaner renewable energy sources.

So, on an overall outlook, electric vehicles are generally more environmentally friendly than petrol or diesel-fueled vehicles. Is reducing your vehicle’s negative environmental impact in the long run one of your key priorities? Then you may want to consider getting a BEV amongst the 3 options.

DC Charging Station

Is It Practical To Own Electric Vehicles In Singapore’s context?

You may also be thinking: is it practical to own an EV in Singapore’s environment? In this section, we will be discussing whether EVs are reliable and can withstand the sweltering heat of Singapore’s tropical climate. Most importantly, for frequent travellers, this section will also answer your burning question: Can I drive a Singapore-bought EV overseas?

How Fast And Far Can Electric Vehicles Go?

Driving range as shown on the dashboard of an EV. Source: The Conversation

The average top speed of electric cars that are currently available on the market is approximately 177 kilometres per hour. While this is slightly lower than the average top speed of standard cars, electric cars boast higher acceleration rates than petrol and diesel cars.

The average range of an electric car is 291 kilometres, which is shorter when compared to the distance of 482 kilometres travelled by an average gas-powered car on a full tank.

Are you worried that your EV may not have sufficient range to last for a full day? Your concern will be mitigated as the Singapore government is planning to construct 60,000 charging points island-wide by 2030. This iincludes 40,000 charging points in public carparks and 20,000 charging points in private premises. In addition, the government will also aim to build 8 EV-ready towns with chargers at all HDB carparks by 2025.

Can I drive my Electric Vehicle overseas?

Some of you may be wondering, after the coronavirus pandemic is over, will I be able to drive my EV overseas? The short answer is that not all charging stations are the same. There are different types of EV charging – AC charging and DC charging. AC charging is slower than DC charging.

electric vehicles

Difference between AC and DC charging stations. Source: Climate Action

While AC charging stations infrastructure are similar for most charging stations, DC charging infrastructure are typically located along highways or expressways. Moreover, different carmakers require different types of connectors for DC charging. Therefore, it would be better if you charge your EV fully before you leave your home or hotel. And then recharge when you reach your next destination.

For seasoned travellers to Malaysia, you should take note that their EV infrastructure is not well-developed yet. To avoid your EV battery from running out too fast, you should avoid speeding or setting the air conditioner at full blast while waiting in traffic congestions at the Causeway. Knowing your car’s battery range and features are key to planning your next holiday wisely.

 

Will Electric Vehicles Be Able To Withstand Singapore’s Hot Temperatures?

Experienced car owners may know that Singapore’s sweltering heat can reduce the capabilities of their vehicles. EVs are not immune to these effects too.

According to research conducted by the American Automobile Association in 2019, the driving range of a typical EV reduces by 17% when outdoor temperatures reach 35 degrees Celsius. This means that you can only drive with a reduced average range to 241 kilometres on a single charge. A lower driving range requires you to charge your EV more often, which increases the maintenance costs.

However, Tesla reported that its vehicle models experience a less drastic reduction of driving range, stating that the decrease in driving range of its models is approximately 1% at the same temperature.

 

Overall Practicality Of Electric Vehicles

With the increase in the quantity of EV charging stations by 2030, you will be able to charge your EV anywhere and anytime. The maximum speed of an EV still exceeds our top expressway speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour. Given that the mainland of Singapore measures 50 kilometres from east to west, 27 kilometres from north to south, and 193 kilometres along our coastline, the reduced driving range due to Singapore’s high temperatures should not pose too much of a difficulty. So, it is still realistic and logical to own an EV in Singapore.

But if you are thinking of driving your EV overseas, then you need to plan wisely on how best to save your battery, where to charge your EV, and whether you need to buy different charging equipment.

Is It Costly To Own Electric Vehicles In Singapore?

You have now considered how practical and sustainable EVs are. Next up: what are the costs of purchasing and maintaining an EV?

electric vehicles

Source: Vulcan Post

While the selling price of an EV may be very expensive after including the COE and Additional Registration Fee (ARF), new potential EV car owners like you can take heart with our government’s generous support in the form of a high Vehicle Emissions Scheme rebate capped at $25,000, and the EV Early Adopter Incentive (EEAI) rebate which provides a 45% rebate of the ARF (capped at $20,000). The EEAI rebate is presently applicable until 31 December 2023.

A plus point is that BEVs have fewer moving parts and do not require as frequent oil changes as conventional vehicles or PHEV, so this means that you can enjoy lower service and maintenance costs as a full-EV owner. You can also save more money as the costs of charging an EV is generally lower than those of fuelling petrol-powered and diesel-powered vehicles.

Pro tip: You can save more money if you charge your EV during off peak hours! All these rebates and savings can help to offset the high initial cost when you purchase a new EV.

 

Energy-efficient Tips For Electric Vehicles

While you should take up EV ownership to go green, you can go one step further and save even more electrical energy by following these tips:

  1. Do not over charge or let your EV battery run flat. Lithium-ion batteries in most of the existing EV models work optimally between 30% and 90% of their capacity.
  2. If possible, keep your EV cool when not in use and charge your EV away from direct sunlight.
  3. Gather and analyse your EV driving data to understand your EV’s range and requirements for an optimal performance that also maximises its battery life.
  4. Learn and utilise energy-efficient driving mode settings in your EV. For instance, the 2016 Nissan LEAF possesses a “B-mode” setting. This can maximize the car’s energy efficiency when descending hilly terrains.

 

Owning an EV is not only better for the environment, but for your wallet as well. If you’re considering a car and have the finances all lined up already, do consider the switch  (or better still, rent!) to an EV!

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