Electric vehicle regulation and law in Singapore

Since 2011, the Singapore government has launched a series of initiatives – led largely by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) – to determine whether EVs are suitable for Singapore. Some key initiatives are set out below.

In June 2011, an inter-agency EV taskforce led by LTA announced the launch of the EV test-bed. The objective was to test and gauge different EV prototypes and charging technologies, and gather data to guide the planning of future EV development.

In December 2014, the LTA and the Economic Development Board (EDB) announced plans to trial an EV car-sharing programme which would see the introduction of up to 1,000 EVs and the charging infrastructure to support their use. The primary aim of the trial was to enable the government to gain a deeper understanding of the operating models and support required for EVs to succeed on a larger scale in Singapore.

In June 2016, the government announced the launch of an EV car sharing programme in collaboration with the Bolloré Group to operate BlueSG, a nationwide car sharing programme (the “BlueSG Program”) with a fleet of 1,000 EVs.

These initiatives form part of the government’s wider aim to develop a “car-lite” society to reduce urban congestion and to assist it in meeting its emission targets under the Paris Agreement.

1. What EVs have been deployed in your jurisdiction to date?

The EV market in Singapore is still relatively underdeveloped. At the end of 2017, there were only 520 EVs in Singapore (including plug-in hybrid vehicles). A majority of these EVs (298 units) were registered by car-sharing services such as BlueSG.

However, it is anticipated that these numbers will increase significantly in the near future.

Under the BlueSG Program, BlueSG Pte Ltd (a subsidiary of the Bolloré Group) will roll out a total of 500 charging stations equipped with 2,000 charging points island-wide and a fleet of 1,000 EVs. Approximately 80 cars and 32 charging stations have already been implemented.

HDT Singapore Taxi (HDT Singapore), a company which operates 100 electric-powered taxis, applied in January 2018 to the LTA to add another 800 electric taxis to its fleet. The status of the application is currently unclear. However, if approved, this would more than double the number of existing EVs in Singapore.

It is expected that 50 Volvo diesel hybrid buses will be in service in the second half of 2018. This is part of LTA’s efforts to build a more environmentally-friendly public bus fleet. According to LTA, these low-emission buses will help LTA better understand the operational and technical challenges that come with their deployment. It is also anticipated that LTA will be calling a tender to procure 60 electric buses, and that the public can expect to see the deployment of electric buses by 2019.

2. Is there any specific legislation for/regulation of EVs in your jurisdiction?

There is no specific, comprehensive legislation governing EVs in Singapore. The legislation applicable to EVs exists in a myriad of subsidiary legislation under the Road Traffic Act (Chapter 276). This subsidiary legislation includes:

  • the Road Traffic (Vehicular Emissions) Tax Rules 2017, governing the calculation of the vehicular emission tax for taxable vehicles (including EVs)
  • the Road Traffic (Motor Vehicles, Quota System) Rules, governing the issuance of certificates of entitlement for vehicles (including EVs)
  • the Road Traffic (Motor Vehicles, Registration and Licensing) Rules, which covers licensing fees and rebates for EVs
  • the Road Traffic (Motor Vehicle, Construction and Use) Rules, governing the construction and installation of electrical apparatus and circuits in an EV.

3. What measures promote EVs in your jurisdiction?

The government has implemented the following measures to promote EVs in Singapore:

  • Provision of charging infrastructure – through the BlueSG Program, 2,000 charging points will be installed in Singapore, including 400 available for public use. It is intended that this will form the foundation of a nationwide EV charging infrastructure to support wider adoption of EVs in Singapore.
  • New Vehicular Emission Scheme – During the 2017 national budget announcement, the LTA announced the Vehicular Emission Scheme (VES), to run from 1 January 2018 to 31 December 2019. The VES sets out a rebate and surcharge system for all new cars, taxis and newly imported used cars with effect from 1 January 2018. The VES covers five different pollutants. Whether a car or a taxi will enjoy a rebate or be penalised with a surcharge is determined by its worst-performing pollutant. In June 2017, in a bid to improve the commercial viability of EVs, LTA announced the reduction of the carbon emission factor of EVs by 20 percent. This made it slightly easier for EVs to enjoy the rebates under the VES.

4. Who are the main entities (e.g. developers, government, System Operator) and what are their roles in the deployment of EVs in your jurisdiction?

The main entities and their roles are:

  • Regulators and governmental bodies – The key governmental bodies which play a role in the deployment of EVs are the LTA, the National Environmental Agency (NEA), the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and the EDB.LTA is the key regulator and policy maker and driver concerning EVs. It is responsible for planning Singapore’s long-term transportation needs and spearheads land transport developments.The remaining bodies play a more ancillary and supporting role. For example, the NEA is responsible for the implementation of the VES, which has an impact on the price of EVs and, accordingly, their commercial viability. The EDB is the lead government agency for planning and executing strategies to position Singapore for the future. Part of EDB’s role includes co-leading the Electro-Mobility Singapore taskforce together with the LTA. The EMA is responsible for identifying strategic partners for test bedding, reviewing power grid regulations and licensing requirements for EV charging systems, and developing codes and standards.
  • Operators of car-sharing and taxi services – Until EVs become more mainstream for consumers, commercial operators like BlueSG Pte Ltd and HDT Singapore will play a larger role in shaping the EV landscape in Singapore. Apart from physically deploying EVs on the roads, their role also includes the installation of the charging infrastructure for the development of EVs in Singapore.
  • Property developers – One of the key challenges to the proliferation of EVs is the lack of charging infrastructure. This issue could be alleviated if property developers for residential, commercial and industrial projects start installing charging stations within their projects. However, this may be an unrealistic expectation unless there is a demand for charging stations or developers are properly incentivised by the government to carry out these installations.

5. What are the main challenges to further deployment of EVs in your jurisdiction? How have EV developers sought to overcome these challenges to date?

The key challenges and how the relevant EV developers have sought to overcome them are:

  • Cost of EVs – Generally, the cost of EVs remain higher than ICE vehicles. This deters consumers from purchasing EVs. The introduction of the VES rebate is meant to address this issue by bridging the difference in costs between EVs and ICE vehicles.
  • Lack of charging infrastructure – The charging infrastructure in Singapore is still largely underdeveloped. This problem is exacerbated because approximately 80% of Singaporeans stay in non-landed, strata public housing, which usually does not contain any charging stations. This also means that potential EV owners who live in public housing will be unable to install any charging stations even if they are willing to pay for them. The LTA is seeking to overcome this problem through the implementation of the BlueSG Program.
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Adrian Wong