Sustainable mobility: the road ahead for Singapore

Achieving sustainable mobility requires scaling vehicle sharing, decarbonising the energy system, and funding and building infrastructure for electric vehicles and other alternatives to petroleum. As each country takes its own approach, what steps has Singapore taken to become more energy efficient, and what challenges do we face on the road to sustainability?

Challenge 1: Investing in infrastructure

As of January 2020, 1,125 cars make up the electric vehicles (EV) population in Singapore.* While the figure is fewer than 0.2 per cent of the total car population, EVs are expected to grow in number over the next several years. 

Passenger demands for sustainable mobility are on an upward trend, but most consumers are often discouraged by the lack of dedicated charging infrastructure in residential carparks. Moreover, older buildings would need to be upgraded and undergo future-proofing before they can readily accept EVs. “Therefore, investment in green vehicles and their respective infrastructure must go hand-in-hand in order to encourage higher EV adoption.” says G. Arull, Partner, Head of Transport & Logistics, Mazars in Singapore. 

Challenge 2: Transitioning to greener and lesser energy 

Singapore has pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 16% below Business-as-Usual levels in 2020, since the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in 2010.* Transitioning to less carbon intensive fuels is one of the main ways in which we can reduce emissions. 

Amongst the many types of fossil fuels, natural gas emits 40% less carbon dioxide than fuel oil for every unit of electricity generated. This means as Singapore switches to using more natural gas, we are emitting less carbon than we would have.*

However, simply using cleaner fuel will not drastically reduce emissions. To become a sustainable, low-carbon economy in the long-term, the government has introduced a carbon tax to incentivise emitters to reduce their output and encourage more energy efficient projects.

“Singapore relies heavily on foreign investment and trade,” says Jonathan Maglaqui, Associate Director, Mazars in Singapore. “The primary challenge with the carbon tax is that it could affect the competitiveness of the companies here.”

Challenge 3: Pivoting towards innovation

A key challenge for widespread sustainable mobility is fuel efficiency, as petrol takes a backseat in the fight for climate change. In anticipation of the rise of electric vehicles, ExxonMobil – with their largest refinery in Singapore – has launched a suite of fluids, greases and lubricants for EVs. Shell has also been innovating its product line to include electricity, biofuels and hydrogen along with high-quality performance fuel. As demands for cleaner energy solutions increase, oil and gas corporations will have to continuously innovate to stay relevant within the greater environmental landscape. 

Challenge 4: Setting the right incentive mix 

“The government policy on promoting and incentivising EV is also going to have a huge impact on consumers’ behaviour,” adds Arull. During the Budget announcement, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Heng Swee Keat declared that there will upfront rebates for EV buyers. For early adopters of fully electric cars and taxis, they will receive a rebate of up to 45 per cent on the Additional Registration fee, capped at S$20,000. For EV and hybrid owners, they can expect to pay lower road tax. 

A low carbon future is set for Singapore as an estimated 28,000 charging points will be installed by 2030, from the 1,600 currently. It has also been said that the government will set an example to progress to cleaner vehicles – as government assets like buses will eventually be fully electric. 

Challenge 5: Encouraging the collective spirit of carsharing

The conversation around sustainable mobility must also include a form of affordable transport: car-sharing. “Offering generous incentives does encourage private EV ownership at first, but Singapore is also looking at the long-term,” adds Maglaqui. “EV car-sharing is the preferable alternative for those who understand the cost of owning a car in Singapore.” Take for example BlueSG, Singapore’s first electric car sharing service. Along with its fleet of over 200 EVs, the locally based company has a total of 17,000 registered members since its launch in 2017. 

“We are seeing a lot more of these shared electric cars on the road, and that could signal positive change in terms of sustainability.” concludes Arull. 

Conclusion: making sustainability a reality

The future of sustainability mobility is centered around lived patterns: how we move about in our day-to-day lives. Singapore has set out a vision for the nation, one that embraces convenience and inclusivity through the Land Transport Master Plan (LTMP 2040). The LTMP’s objective is simple: for residents to get around the city in 45 minutes or less. While conceivable, achieving such mobility is not without its challenges. While some policies and initiatives might not work, it is not a futile effort. Ultimately, building a healthier and more efficient transportation ecosystem means better lives for everyone too. 

*The Business Times,