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Are Electric Vehicles Truly Worth the Hype?

By Leney, Senior Editor

Photo: Mothership

In its 2021 special report, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that climate change constitutes the single biggest health threat facing humanity and emphasizes the need for governments to act with urgency to tackle the crisis. [2] This of course is neither surprising nor unexpected. Even as we remain cautiously optimistic that the end of the pandemic is in sight, the threat posed by climate change continues to loom. Many countries have made promises to reduce their carbon emissions, most notably with the 2015 Paris Agreement. Singapore, alongside more than 190 countries, has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030 and stabilise greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030. [3]

Singapore’s commitment to meeting this goal is evident with the unveiling of the 2030 Green Plan that goes beyond just simply reducing carbon emissions. The Green Plan has focused on building green, liveable and sustainable homes for Singaporeans, strengthening green efforts in school, encouraging green commutes, energy reset with the adoption of cleaner-energy vehicles, and more (elaborated with the infographic below).

Infographic summarising Singapore’s Green Plan. Photo: GreenPlan Gov [4]

The focus of this article will not be evaluating how Singapore has fared in terms of meeting the sustainability goals it has set in the Paris Agreement. Instead, it will focus solely on evaluating Singapore’s efforts to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). However, before delving into the Singapore government’s effectiveness in encouraging the adoption of EVs, we first look at the Singapore government’s history with EVs.

Singapore Government’s history with EVs

The Singapore government announced the rolling out of 60,000 charging points at public car parks by 2030, as part of an effort to increase the adoption of EVs. However, the initiatives to encourage more to drive cleaner energy vehicles are not new. As early as 2009, a task force was convened to study the deployment and proliferation of EVs in Singapore.

However, it was only in the 2020 Budget that an announcement was made to roll out 28,000 charging points at public car parks islandwide by 2030. Furthermore, with the intention to phase out all petrol and diesel cars by 2040, this gave a clear signal to the government’s goal of investing in EVs. The adoption of EVs once again gained momentum with the unveiling of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 in 2021, which sets new goals for all car registrations to be cleaner-energy models from 2030, and 60,000 charging points to be built by the same year, a highly ambitious goal, which was more than double the original target set in the 2020 Budget. [5] Aside from building the infrastructure necessary to encourage the adoption of EVs, the 2021 budget also saw the government waiving the minimum Additional Registration Fee of S$5,000 for EVs and committing S$30 million over the next five years for EV-related initiatives, such as measures to improve charging provisions at private premises.

Perhaps, another way to observe the changing trends in the EVs scene in Singapore is through the example of Tesla, which has become synonymous with EVs. As Tesla fanatics would have been aware of, Tesla first set up shop here in mid-2010 but left in early 2011 because it failed to secure green tax breaks. This led Elon Musk to criticise the Singapore government on numerous occasions for the lack of support for EVs. In 2018, he tweeted that the city-state was unsupportive and did the same in 2019, in response to queries by fans on why Tesla has not returned to Singapore. However, for the astute road watchers, Tesla has since been back in Singapore. Deliveries for its most popular model, the Tesla Model 3, have also begun. [6]

Photo: Twitter [7]

Photo: Twitter [7]

Are the incentives enough?

Singapore has largely adopted a carrot and stick approach to encourage the adoption of EVs. For instance, under the Commercial Vehicles Emissions Scheme (CVES), introduced in April 2021, which aims to minimise air-polluting carbon emissions, an additional $10,000 surcharge was placed on top of the vehicle’s purchase price. Meanwhile, incentives such as the EV Early Adoption Incentive (EEAI) will provide a rebate of up to 45% on the Addition Registration Fee for those who buy fully electric cars. [8]

The bottleneck to wide-scale adoption has always been the lack of charging ports, which accounts for the lacklustre adoption in many countries. In response to that as mentioned above, Singapore aims to have 60,000 public charging points by 2030 (an ambitious aim), to support the push to increase the uptake of electric cars in Singapore. Furthermore, our government has set a target to have all vehicles in Singapore running on "cleaner energy" by 2040 and ensure that by 2030, new cars running fully on fossil fuels will not be allowed to be registered. As former Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in 2021, in Singapore, converting all light vehicles to electric propulsion would reduce 1.5 million to 2 million tonnes in emissions per year, which translates to a reduction of just around 4 percent of GDP Singapore's total emissions. [9] This would allow Singapore to be closer to meeting the goals set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement.

However, adoption may be slower than expected, mainly due to the limited variety, affordability, and range anxiety. Aside from the electric car giant Tesla, only a handful of electric car models are available for sale in Singapore today, such as the BYD e6 and the Nissan Leaf. The second reason is affordability, with EVs being substantially more expensive than their hybrid counterparts. For example, Hyundai Ioniq Electric currently costs an estimated S$150,000, while its hybrid version of the Ioniq costs an estimated S$100,000. Lastly, range anxiety continues to remain a pervasive problem, with worries that the electric car would not have the ability to travel long distances, i.e., driving to Malaysia. [10]

To sum, the Singapore government rarely takes a singular approach to solving any problem and this issue is no exception. Apart from the initiative and policies mentioned above, the Singapore government has implemented other more subtle and indirect measures to deter and change consumer mindset. The petrol duty hike in 2021 is one such example. With duty for premium grade petrol having increased by 15 cents a litre and that of intermediate grade petrol by 10 cents a litre.[11] All of these actions by the government are part of a greater push towards sustainability and achieving the commitment set forth in the Paris climate agreement.

Where EVs currently stand

Thus with all that, where do EVs stand in Singapore? It is essential to remember that Singapore’s EV market is relatively nascent.

Despite the above-mentioned limitations, the total EVs population in Singapore has more than doubled from 1,217 in 2020 to 2,942 in 2021. Though this figure remains optimistic, in proportion to the total number of cars in Singapore, EV still makes up less than 1%. [12] This clearly shows two important points.

The first is that the pros of EVs outweigh the cons. Many of the issues mentioned previously have been addressed to some degree. For example, regarding the issue of charging ports, the Singapore government has committed to increase the number of public charging ports by 2030. Another example is the limited variety, which we have seen being addressed by the market itself. For instance, BMW intends to launch two new fully electric cars in Singapore this year, making a total of six EV models it has here as a way to meet the increasing demand for EVs.

However, the second reason and one that really encapsulates the Singaporean mindset is pragmatism. In a bid to encourage more people to buy EVs, the government has generously introduced various incentives and schemes including the EV early adoption incentive, road tax reduction, etc, that over the years could allow an estimated saving of $45,000. [13]

As government policies and even market forces continue to play both driving and complementary roles in driving the adoption of EVs, momentum for EVs continues to build. However, the change would not happen overnight. Instead, experts expect the tipping point for widespread adoption to come in only about three to five years.


Ultimately, it is important to remember that Singapore’s EV market is relatively nascent and there are reasons for continued optimism. In the coming years, we should and can expect to see more widespread use of EVs. With growing demand both locally and globally for cars that are environmentally friendly, manufacturers have been and will further respond in kind to increase supply and variety to meet rising demand. Furthermore, with the myriad of government policies and initiatives that tilt heavily in favour of EVs, the pragmatism of Singaporeans will translate these dollar savings into action. Climate change for other countries may just be an issue of more erratic weather conditions. But for Singapore, which is a low-lying island nation, rising sea levels threaten our very existence.[14]



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Leney is a Year 3 business student who is currently a Senior Editor for The Convergence. When not drowning in submissions and group projects, she vegges out and goes down a rabbit hole of Youtube videos, from watching conspiracy theories to listening to random podcasts. When the algorithm gets too crazy, she indulges in reading books. A fanatic collector of books (horder), she has amassed a collection of books, half of which are still unread (yikes!).


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