Singapore

More e-cabs to hit roads as HDT becomes seventh taxi operator

Electric cab company HDT Singapore Taxi becomes 7th operator

An all-electric taxi company will officially become Singapore's seventh taxi operator from today - and the first new entrant in the sector since Prime in 2007.

HDT Singapore Taxi, which had been operating on a temporary licence for two years, has been given the green light by the authorities to expand its fleet in a market battered by stiff competition from ride-hailing apps.

With operators such as ComfortDelGro and Trans-Cab indicating they are looking to grow their fleets again, experts said the latest development indicates that the exit of Uber earlier this year has given the taxi industry some breathing room.

After being awarded a full-fledged Taxi Service Operator Licence from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) yesterday, HDT will be required to have a minimum fleet of 800 electric cabs by the end of July 2022.

This will add to the taxi population of 21,160, down from 28,200 in early-2016.

The competition is gone for a little bit, fares are up again and taxi drivers have breathing space.Singapore Management University’s Assistant Professor Terence Fan on the impact of ride-hailing apps on taxis

HDT had been operating with a temporary licence as part of a government-supported trial to explore the use of electric vehicles in a fleet setting.

Announcing its decision yesterday, LTA said HDT's performance and capabilities had shown it was a viable business and could operate as a full-fledged taxi service.

Singapore Management University's Assistant Professor Terence Fan said the battle between Grab and Uber resulted in prices being depressed and increased the supply of private-hire vehicles on the roads.

"This temporarily impacted the taxi industry adversely. The competition is gone for a little bit, fares are up again and taxi drivers have breathing space," Prof Fan said.

COMPETITION

But the impending entrance of Indonesian ride-hailing giant Go-Jek is expected to intensify competition again.

Meanwhile, with its new licence, HDT's current fleet of 100 e-taxis, which are classified as research vehicles, will no longer be tax-exempt.

HDT has up to the end of this month to register them as regular taxis, said LTA.

Besides fulfilling quality of service and taxi availability standards, HDT "will have to ensure that sufficient charging stations are set up islandwide to support its fleet," LTA said.

HDT managing director James Ng told The Straits Times there are 75 charging stations and he is looking to add more.

While other taxis operators rent out their vehicles at a daily rate, HDT will continue its practice of employing drivers.

HDT's taxi drivers get a starting monthly pay of $1,900, inclusive of Central Provident Fund contributions. If they hit a revenue target of $7,250, the gross salary with CPF is $3,400.

Transport