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Views: Tackle electric vehicles woes then promote autonomous vehicles

This must come first to prepare for adoption of autonomous vehicles in Singapore

If there is a time for autonomous vehicles (AVs) to take off, it is now.

For the second year running, Singapore is ranked second in the world behind the Netherlands in being ready to embrace AVs in the 2019 KPMG's Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index (AVRI).

The rankings illustrate that AVs are no longer just a possibility, but an imminent reality for all of us living in Singapore.

According to the 2019 AVRI, driving Singapore's preparedness in AVs are its strengths in policy and regulation, high consumer acceptance and readiness in infrastructure.

This is evident through recent developments such as the launch of the first AV bus by Volvo and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and the publication of Technical Reference 68 (TR 68), a set of national standards for developing and deploying AV technology.

Singapore is also serving as an excellent test bed for AV technology, although in the area of technology and innovation, there is still room for improvement, particularly in attracting AV-related technology headquarters to be established here.

But Dyson's recent move to relocate its global headquarters to Singapore and set up an electric vehicle (EV) factory on our island are testament to the fact that the nation has what it takes to create a market for AVs.

Dyson's move will also pave the way in attracting more AV-related technology companies to base themselves here.

LOW ADOPTION

In 2018, EVs represented less than 0.1 per cent of all vehicles in Singapore. The upfront cost and inconveniences of owning an EV have been singled out as key reasons for low adoption.

In light of these challenges, a three-pronged approach can be considered to increase ownership of EVs.

Firstly, an Early Turnover Scheme (ETS) for passenger vehicles could be implemented.

Similar to the existing ETS which encourages replacing older diesel commercial vehicles with more environmentally-friendly alternatives, a new ETS encouraging people to convert passenger vehicles to EVs could be rolled out over the next few years as the availability of charging infrastructure and access to affordable post-sales services improve.

Secondly, improving public awareness of EV technology to bring clarity and alleviate concerns on owning such a vehicle in Singapore is key to changing existing misconceptions.

For instance, range anxiety, where a person driving an electric car worries that the battery will run out of power before the destination or a suitable charging point is reached, should not be a major concern in Singapore as the average mileage for a standard electric car on a full charge is around 270km, considerably more than the average daily mileage for a common vehicle at 40-45km.

Thirdly, Singapore needs to ramp up the development of its EV charging infrastructure.

Singapore can accelerate the ongoing deployment of charging points by encouraging the development of charging infrastructure through incentives such as grants to install.

With this three-pronged approach in place, Singapore will be well on its way to mass electrification of vehicles, as a stepping stone to AV adoption.

Satya Ramamurthy is head of Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare, KPMG in Singapore; Richard Threfall is global head of Infrastructure, KPMG in the UK. Views expressed are their own. This article was published in The Business Times yesterday.

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