Grab, ComfortDelGro buying Hyundai EVs as charging network grows

Separately, Nissan says that by 2022, all its new models arriving in Singapore will be fully electric or hybrids

Singapore

THE Singapore transport scene is abuzz with taxi and private-hire car operators investing more in Electric Vehicles (EVs), while carmakers respond to the growing interest.

Ride hailing service Grab has added 200 Hyundai Kona electric cars to its fleet, making it one of the largest EV fleet owners in the Republic.

An initial batch of 20 Grab EVs hits the streets on Friday.

On a smaller scale, taxi operator ComfortDelGro bought two Hyundai Kona electric taxis as part of an ongoing trial on EVs. Last July, it introduced two fully-electric Hyundai Ioniq taxis.

The trial is to study the "roadworthiness" of EVs, and feedback thus far is positive, said the company's corporate communications officer Tammy Tan, in response to queries from The Business Times.

Separately, Nissan Motors announced that by 2022, all of its new models arriving in Singapore will be fully electric or hybrids, The Straits Times reported on Thursday.

The series of EV-related announcements comes as Singapore strengthens its EV infrastructure.

On Wednesday, SP Group announced that it has rolled out 38 EV charging points islandwide, half of which are high-powered 50kW direct current (DC) charging points that can charge a car fully in just 30 minutes. The rest are 43kW alternating current (AC) charging points.

SP will introduce a total of 1,000 charging stations by 2020, a quarter of which will be DC ones.

The growing number of high-powered charging points means the time is right for Grab to acquire its own EVs, said Kau Yi Ming, head of GrabRentals Singapore, at a Wednesday media briefing.

Of key interest: the Hyundai Kona can charge to 80 per cent in just 30 minutes with the high-powered DC charging point. The car has a driving range of 482 km.

"Drivers clock about 200 km to 300 km in a day. With this charging capacity, there is no more 'range anxiety' that drivers need to face," he said.

Grab's drivers will enjoy a preferential discount of up to 30 per cent at SP's EV charging stations.

Drivers pay S$80 a day in rental for the Hyundai Kona, which Mr Kau said is "comparable" to rental charges for "mainstream, mass-market" cars.

Grab drivers who switch from hybrid cars can save 40 per cent in fuel costs, he estimated. Those switching from petrol cars can save 70 per cent.

Factoring incentives from Grab, drivers could see up to a 25 per cent rise in their daily income.

There is still a downside: high-powered charging points are more expensive.

SP has set rates at 44.19 Singapore cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the DC chargers, and 38.68 cents per kWh for the AC ones (excluding Goods and Services Tax).

Switching to cheaper AC charging points has its limitations too: the Hyundai Kona will need seven to nine hours to fully charge, Mr Kau said.

Still, he believes there will be sufficient high-powered charging points for Grab drivers.

Other transport operators already using EVs welcome the entry of more players.

With EVs, it's a case of "the more, the merrier", James Ng, managing director of HDT Singapore Taxi, told BT.

HDT owns 100 electric taxis and 80 electric private cars. Its drivers tap on 75 AC charging points across 10 locations, provided by SP exclusively to HDT.

"Eventually it will drive up more attention (on EVs) ... and there will be more charging stations. Hopefully the charging costs can go down."

Mr Ng said HDT plans to grow its fleet to 800 EVs by 2022. From February, it will be adding 15 to 20 EVs to its fleet monthly.

Using EVs can lower operational expenditure. The running cost of an EV is 30 to 40 per cent that of a diesel-powered car, he added.

Electric car-sharing service BlueSG is similarly ramping up its fleet. It has deployed 355 EVs and has over 150 charging stations with more than 600 AC charging points islandwide.

By 2020, it aims to have 1,000 EVs and 500 charging stations with 2,000 charging points.

As interest grows in EVs, the company is doing its part to prepare Singapore's infrastructure, said Ms Jenny Lim, commercial and network director at BlueSG.

For instance, some of its charging points will be opened up to privately-owned EVs by end-March.

As more transport players step in, could there be a near-term shortage of EV charging points?

Ms Lim doubts so. "As of now, there is a very limited number of private EVs in Singapore, the vast majority being operated by companies or taxi fleets. Thus, the existing infrastructure in Singapore is more than enough as of today," she said.

Mr Kau of GrabRentals is optimistic infrastructure will keep pace with demand, especially when SP hits 1,000 charging points next year.

"When you get to that point, (EV charging points) are probably even more prevalent than petrol stations," he quipped.