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Can we silence the vrooms?

December 26, 2015

It’s a typical day. At dawn, Mr Tan ferries his children to school and his wife to work before he reaches his office. At noon, Mr Tan offers his colleagues a ride for lunch. At dusk, Mr Tan heads home with his wife.

Multiply the typical day by 365 days in a year, and Mr Tan would have clocked a mileage of 17,800km. That’s 3,293,000g of carbon emissions assuming that Mr Tan drives the average car.

And that’s just a Mr Tan in Singapore. It thus comes as no surprise that private cars contribute to 35% of Singapore’s land transport carbon emissions. In fact, globally, the transport sector accounts for 22% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.


Hence, in recent years, governments are looking at greening their transport networks. Even car firms are zooming into the electric vehicle market to stay ahead of their competitors. The sunk costs may be high, but the long-term rewards in the future clean energy era could be higher.

electric cars 1

Image credits: Earth Times


The success of the electric vehicle transition boils down to three factors:

1. Effective policy design and implementation

Consistent monetary and non-monetary policies should be put in place to ensure the affordability and accessibility of, and preference for electric vehicles. For instance, a poll in the US state of California showed that 78% of electric vehicle users have electric vehicles because they can drive on high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

Besides, policies need to cater to local contexts and be rolled out at an appropriate timing. Incentives should only be available once the city has built adequate infrastructure to serve electric cars. For example, the US state of Georgia took out monetary incentives for electric vehicles too quickly, resulting in a 79% drop in sales.

2. Comprehensive infrastructure

An adequate number of charging facilities need to be provided. The utility grid system of the city also needs to be upgraded such that it can support simultaneous charging of vehicles during peak periods.

electric cars

Image credits:

3. Effective partnerships between government and businesses

Businesses are constantly innovating so that they can become market leaders. Therefore, governments can work with and learn from businesses to increase the usage of electric vehicles. Employees can be encouraged to use electric vehicles. Car firms like BMW are also looking into downstream and upstream operations like domestic charging facilities, work charging facilities, charge point partners and documentation processes. With the provision of seamless services, these firms can ease the consumers’ switch to electric vehicles.


Electric vehicles have already made a hit in car-centric US states like California, where commuting is a daily hassle. While the market is not as mature in Singapore, the availability of electric vehicles and charging stations in the market is a sign that we have taken the step forward. With the Paris agreement, it is likely that we will see greener transport developments in Singapore.

Information in this article is based on a COP21 side event on 10 December 2015. The speakers involved were California Senator Fran Pavley, ARB Chair Mary Nichols, representatives from ZEV Alliance signatories, Vermont Transport Secretary Sue Minter, BMW and LADWP.

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