Last week, in a move to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles among the general public and the transportation industry, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority will be banning the registration of new cars and taxis powered by diesel engines from 2025.
Previously, this was set to be enforced onwards from 2030, but the island nation’s government and policymakers have moved the goalpost by a full 5 years, effectively barring anyone from owning or operating a new diesel passenger vehicle.
“These measures will support Singapore’s targets to cease new diesel car and taxi registrations from 2025, require all new car and taxi registrations to be of cleaner-energy models from 2030, and have all vehicles run on cleaner energy by 2040,” the LTA said.
Naturally, the majority of commercial vehicles used for the mass transport of passenger or goods/cargo such as lorries, buses, and panel vans will still rely need to rely on the diesel engine due to its high torque output and generally superior fuel economy over petrol-powered alternatives, so this smells of a selective culling based on idealism, not practicality.
Singapore also cites reducing emissions and improving air quality as being a factor in their decision here, but given that only 2.9% of privately owned passenger cars are diesels, the impact from ordinary citizens would be quite minimal.
However, with the apparent 41.5% of all taxis running on diesels, robbing taxi drivers and operators of this option could be a huge blow to their business. For the same cost benefits of fuel economy and driving range, there isn’t an EV or petrol-electric hybrid out there that presents the same set of advantages.
In the case of the PHEV, it suffers from a smaller-than-usual fuel tank to make room for its batteries. And meanwhile, fully electric vehicles have much bigger batteries that need to be charged up, which could take as little as half an hour thanks to DC fast charging, but the availability of charging stations is never a guarantee.
On the face of things, there isn’t really a plan in place here for Singapore taxis to shift en masse away from diesel power, and remember we’re not even getting into the cost involved in purchasing a PHEV or EV to replace a conventional ICE car, not to mention a whole fleet.
Singapore does plan to install a combined 60,000 EV charging stations across public locations and private premises, but that project is only expected to be complete by 2030, five years after the ‘diesel ban’.
By 2040, the country plans to have “all vehicles run on cleaner” energy, meaning every vehicle on the island will need to have some form of electrification - parallel hybrid or PHEV at minimum, full EV ideally.
It does also beg the question of how the island nation plans to power or upgrade its power infrastructure and expand electricity generation capacity. Becoming an EV-focused country isn’t an easy flick of the switch, and supplying over 60,000 charging stations will require some serious reserves of juice.
Obviously, Singapore’s limited land area and lack of natural resources mean its ‘in-house’ energy options are quite limited. Making matters worse, as of 2020, reportedly less than 5% of its energy production is derived from renewable sources while the other 95% is generated by the burning of landfill waste, natural gas, and coal (nearly all of which is imported, of course).
Who knows, they might need to tap into Malaysia’s power grid for a long-term solution or, failing that, find a way to exploit nuclear fission as that route, while non-renewable, remains the only realistic source of a safe, clean, high output electricity supply.