Home Spotlight Spotlight on Singapore: Building an EV economy

Spotlight on Singapore: Building an EV economy

First published in Cleantech magazine Sept/Oct 2009. Copyright Cleantech Investor 2009

By Denis Gross

Compiled with the support of the Singapore Energy Market Authority: www.ema.gov.sg

On May 6th 2009, Singapore announced the set-up of a multi-agency task force, jointly led by the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the agency responsible for public and private transportation. Its aim is to implement an electric vehicle (EV) test-bedding programme which is open to all auto manufacturers and technology companies who have a commitment to the future of electric transport. Expected to run from 2010 through 2012, this programme was given an initial impetus via memoranda of understanding (MoU) signed with Renault-Nissan, who aim to become leading brands in ZEV (zero emission vehicles), and Keppel Energy, a leading power company in Singapore and other jurisdictions. Renault-Nissan will supply EVs to Singapore, and Keppel Energy will develop the infrastructure, including charging stations, to support the test-bedding programme.

The programme will involve key industry participants examining infrastructure requirements and new business models applicable to urban transport solutions for cities like Singapore. It is also expected to identify industry and R&D opportunities that could leverage the testbedding platform. By providing this arena for EVs, Singapore expects to become an attractive showcase for auto manufacturers, component suppliers and infrastructure developers.


Singapore pioneered the modern use of toll roads with the Singapore Area Licensing Scheme, the first urban traffic congestion pricing system (introduced in 1975), which charged drivers entering the Central Business District and thus managed traffic demand.

This was replaced in 1998 with an electronic toll collection system, Electronic Road Pricing. This fully automatic system was the first of the various congestion charging schemes that have been rolled out in cities across the world.

As well as road and mass transit systems that are the envy of most cities, Singapore offers sustainable solutions for urbanisation from which the rest of the world can learn – particularly as 2008 marked the point when the proportion of the world’s population living in cities grew to over 50%. For example, securing adequate water resources for its relatively large urban population, in a geographically small area without natural freshwater lakes, was a challenge that needed to be addressed. Singapore’s solution was the “four tap strategy”, utilising rainfall – the primary source of water collected in water catchment areas, imported water from Malaysia, recycled waste water and water produced from desalination.

Thanks to careful urban planning Singapore acts as a carbon sink, absorbing more carbon dioxide than it releases into the atmosphere, according to the United Nations Habitat Report UNHABITAT “State of the World’s Cities 2008/09”. The report cited the city's intense use of greenery with its numerous parks, gardens and nature reserves, allowing carbon dioxide to be trapped and stored in the plants, showing that urbanisation, if combined with environmentally-friendly policies, does not necessarily damage the environment.

Singapore is responding well to the current challenges of urbanisation, energy security and its carbon footprint. Also significant is the increasing energy efficiency of the Singapore economy, with a 13% decline in the electricity required to generate each Singapore dollar of GDP between 1999 and 2008. This reflects the transition to a service-based economy from an industrial one, as well as the advances that have been made in power generation and the greater effi ciency of energy use in other sectors.

The EMA expects electricity demand to grow by between 3% and 4.5% each year in the coming decade as the economy grows. Along with the expected growth in electricity demand, the peak demand is also expected to grow from an estimated 6.5GW in 2009 to approximately 9.5GW by 2020, coming close to and well below the stipulated minimum margin of the total generation capacity expected to be in place unless new generation capacity is added.

The EMA, formed in 2001, is a statutory board under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Its main goals are to promote eff ective competition in the energy market, ensure a reliable and secure energy supply, and develop a dynamic energy sector in Singapore. Through its work, the EMA seeks to forge a progressive energy landscape for sustained growth. This supports its new vision of “Smart Energy, Sustainable Future”.


EVs have a higher efficiency than conventional internal combustion engines, do not consume energy while at rest, and are able to regenerate electricity when braking. They are now enjoying a tremendous growth of interest for the energy and transport sectors, with most major automobile manufacturers now having EV programmes. For countries with limited renewable energy sources, EVs still offer carbon emission reductions. In Singapore, for example, which generates around 80% of its power from natural gas, it is estimated that a 30% penetration of EVs in private car ownership could achieve a 7% reduction in carbon emissions in the overall transport sector.

Given the current worldwide interest in EVs and the pace of technological development, EVs could be commercially available as soon as 2010. It therefore behoves cities to be prepared in terms of physical and IT infrastructure. Singapore represents an ideal test-bed for all aspects of EVs, given its size, urban environment, robust electricity grid and IT infrastructure.

From the outset, Singapore’s philosophy in this arena has not been to create artificial markets that are underwritten by subsidies, as larger industrial countries are doing to support manufacturing industry, but to diversify energy usage and evaluate proliferation, energy security and environmental issues. Essentially, the programme should serve to formulate a viable model for e-mobility, shedding light on how to develop a systems solution that encompasses a range of variables including billing, fleet management and back-end systems.

In setting up a multi-agency taskforce, the need for cooperation on a key initiative across a range of stakeholders is recognised. With cooperation and agreement between the agencies involved, subsequent implementation would be far easier to achieve – this is what the Government calls “collaborative alignment”.

Thus the EV test-bedding programme is chaired by the EMA and LTA, and comprises members from a number of ministries and statutory boards, including the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the National Environment Agency (NEA), the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR). The recent inclusion of the Housing Development Board (HDB), Information Development Authority (IDA) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in the group emphasises the pragmatic approach towards this initiative, ensuring all relevant parties are aligned and collaborative. The EV research meshes well with LTA’s launch of its Singapore Urban Transport Solutions (STARS) framework in 2008.

The involvement of Renault-Nissan and Keppel Energy at the outset got the programme rolling, with Renault-Nissan providing EVs and sharing expertise to help develop common standards. As mentioned earlier, Keppel Energy will focus on developing charging stations and other infrastructure. Infrastructure is seen as a vital part of this programme, and $S20 million has been set aside to support infrastructure development and test-bed EVs.

Central to the programme, and the involvement of what is expected to be a growing list of leading world companies, is the development of open platforms and links between OEMs; in the process drawing in more research institutes and local universities. The open platform provided by this programme will allow a diversity of vehicle prototypes to be tested, and diff erent charging technologies to be assessed.

Alongside these activities, there will also be good opportunities to research the concept of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power; to investigate whether EVs are able to provide power to the grid during peak periods and draw power from the grid during off-peak periods. There is a strong domestic interest in this issue, as it would make it possible to level the loading on the grid and thus provide for a more efficient operation of the power system. Energy efficiency will become an increasingly important factor for those economies heavily dependent on imported hydrocarbon fuels.

Singapore should also benefit as a result of the programme drawing in high value activities centred on battery technology, power electronics and electric drive systems, all of which would find the wealth of technology and research expertise already residing in Singapore a major attraction.

On top of these domestic efforts, Singapore also recognises that cooperation amongst governments and corporations is needed to ensure the smooth roll-out of EVs in the coming years. In this context, as part of the Singapore International Energy Week - http://singapore.iew.com.sg/ - which will be held from 16-20 November 2009, the EMA will be hosting the inaugural Singapore Electric Vehicle Roundtable. It will be an exclusive gathering of government leaders and leading industry players in the EV ecosystem, including automakers, infrastructure providers and integrators. This event will provide a platform to exchange views on the challenges and solutions in EV implementation.


We have already mentioned that one of Singapore’s assets that makes the city-state a very appropriate site for EV test-bedding is its electricity grid, recognised for its high quality, reliability and robustness compared to all international benchmarks. Several aspects of the smart grid are already built into Singapore’s grid, and preliminary explorations are being undertaken to see how it can be developed. Broadly speaking, this involves pooling together advanced communication technologies into the grid so that there is a two-way communication flow of information and energy.

We have discussed the smart grid in Cleantech publications over the past year or so, and outlined how it allows the integration of renewable energy into the system, working with the intermittency of some types like wind and solar, and the other benefi ts it brings. The ultimate goal of the development work under way in Singapore is to be able to offer full retail contestability to residential and commercial users – currently limited to industrial users only. Smart meters in the home and office (as well as the factory) will allow consumers to monitor and control their consumption, and to choose between retail packages on off er from a range of electricity suppliers.

A pilot project involving smart metering is currently under way, called the Electricity Vending System (EVS), and after its expected completion in November this year, the results from this project should help create a roadmap to wide scale deployment.

For EVs, a smart grid, besides the obvious application of charging the vehicle, opens the way to explore vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology: for example, cars selling electricity back into the grid during peak demand. The interaction between EVs, their batteries and the grid will require an intelligent interface, one which can be enabled with smart grid technology.

While this Spotlight has focused on Singapore’s EV test-bedding programme, there are a number of other exciting research and test-bedding initiatives in alternative energy which we will turn the Spotlight on in the coming months. These include:

Jalan Bahar Cleantech Park – for clean technology R&D, prototyping and light manufacturing. This site will allow testbedding of energy solutions for the tropics.

Experimental Power Grid Centre (EPGC) – a national R&D and test-bedding centre set up by A*STAR for the evaluation of sustainable energy solutions. This centre will enable the testbedding of infrastructure that will allow the adoption of alternative energy solutions.

Island Test-beds – an eco-park on the island of Pulau Semakau will provide test-bedding facilities for renewable and clean energy technologies focused on waste-to-energy. Another island, Pulau Ubin, which has no existing connection to Singapore’s main grid, will test-bed an intelligent micro-grid infrastructure. Equipped with an advanced grid control system, the micro-grid will supply electricity generated from clean and renewable technologies to the island community, giving residents better reliability and eliminating the dependency on diesel generators.



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