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Could van-tastic savings lead to van-tastic EV sales?

An upcoming rebate and lower running costs mean electric vehicle adoption could take the commercial route here.

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In the case of the BYD T3, an approved charging cable that is run from an industrial three-pin socket can charge the van fully in under eight hours.

BT_20201225_EV1_4381900.jpg
In the case of the BYD T3, an approved charging cable that is run from an industrial three-pin socket can charge the van fully in under eight hours.

Singapore

TESLAS may be the glamorous face of electric vehicles (EVs), but humble vans might provide the playbook for how to make battery propulsion viable in Singapore.

With new rebates that come into effect in April 2021, the prices of battery-powered electric light goods vehicles (LGVs) look set to match those of combustion LGVs.

In March this year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) announced the new Commercial Vehicle Emissions Scheme (CVES) for LGVs, Goods-cum-Passenger Vehicles (GPVs) and small buses.

CVES will classify them into bands according to how much they dirty the air, with a S$10,000 penalty for the worst polluters.

Commercial vehicles in the least-polluting Band A will be eligible for a S$30,000 incentive. The regulations state that only vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions qualify, which effectively rules out petrol or diesel engines.

That could kick-start EV sales here. LTA figures show that there are only 96 electrically-powered LGVs on Singapore's roads (as at November), a tiny fraction of the 140,964 total. LGVs are the most common commercial vehicle type here, and make up 65 per cent of the commercial vehicle population.

At the moment, battery-and-motor propulsion costs significantly more than combustion power. On Renault's price list from early December, a diesel Renault Kangoo cost S$73,800 with certificate of entitlement (COE) while the electric version cost S$110,800. A CVES rebate of S$30,000 would narrow that price gap to S$7,000.

With the same rebate, the electric BYD T3's cost would fall from S$95,800 with COE to S$65,800. In comparison, the Nissan NV200, a popular petrol-powered LGV, retails for S$66,800 with COE.

That price parity could open the doors for businesses to enjoy the lower running costs of electric LCVs. Edward Tan, managing director of Hong Seh Evolution, the subsidiary of luxury car and yacht dealership Hong Seh Group that sells the BYD T3, thinks 2021 could be a prime year for commercial EVs.

"The rebates are a fantastic push from the government that will really help to lower not just the price of electric LGVs, but also the daily operation cost for businesses and individuals," he told The Business Times. "Electric vans cost much less to run on a day-to-day basis and we think their cost effectiveness is a very convincing factor for business owners."

At the current energy tariff of S$0.21/kWh, the BYD T3 would be able to cover the average yearly mileage for an LGV here (29,500km) for S$1,043. In comparison, the conventional Renault Kangoo would use S$2,518 in diesel, and the Nissan NV200 S$4,380 in petrol. Over 10 years of ownership, that implies S$14,750 to S$33,370 in savings from energy costs alone.

With no combustion engine or cooling systems, electric vans are cheaper to service and maintain, as well. They can also travel far enough on battery power to make them viable for commercial use. The average LGV here covers 80km a day, according to LTA figures. The quoted ranges of the Renault Kangoo EV and BYD T3 are 265km and 305km, respectively.

One barrier to EV adoption - finding the time and a place for charging - is something CVES is unable to address. Yet, electric LGVs could be charged on fleet or warehouse premises with industrial power supplies. In the case of the BYD T3, an approved charging cable that is run from an industrial three-pin socket can charge the van fully in under eight hours.

Public charging will soon proliferate, as well. According to a tender issued in November by the LTA and URA, more than 200 public carparks will have around 600 charging points by the third quarter of 2022.

After doubling in 2019, the number of electric passenger cars here grew just 7.4 per cent in the first 11 months of 2020. With CVES on the horizon, when it comes to making battery power widespread on Singapore roads, it might be up to vans to deliver the goods.

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