The Road Ahead For Green Mobility

Janson Chen, CEO of SWAG EV Co., shares his views on the future of the electric vehicle market in Singapore.

Singapore-based start-up Swag EV is already making waves in Thailand, with its electric bikes becoming increasingly common on Bangkok’s bustling streets. It is now working with partners in Singapore to make green mobility a reality here.

BiZQ speaks with Swag EV CEO and co-founder Janson Chen on the opportunities and challenges ahead for electric vehicles (EVs) in Singapore and the region.

How will the introduction of EVs create a greener and more sustainable transport ecosystem?

At present, urban transportation contributes to 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions, accounting for three-quarters of all transport emissions. Moreover, the Asian Development Bank found that by 2030, the vast majority of greenhouse gases increases are expected to come from developing Asia.

A switch to EVs can provide us with a slew of advantages. To begin, we can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and our reliance on fossil fuels to generate fuel. Running on a renewable energy source, such as electricity, drastically reduces waste emission back into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the cost of charging an EV is significantly lower, by up to two-thirds, when compared to a gasoline-only vehicle.

We are looking at the entirety of the EV supply chain, not just the obvious environmental impacts. Firstly, because EVs do not have gas engines, they do not require traditional maintenance and repairs such as an oil change. Studies are also showing that EVs allow for easier braking, reducing the rate at which brakes need to be replaced. By reducing or eliminating the need to replace parts in a vehicle’s lifecycle, it lowers the strain on the resources required. Secondly, we are making conscious decisions to be sustainability-led. For instance, we try to recycle and reuse materials in our products, which doubles up as an ongoing learning experience, and aim to arrive at a day where we are using all recyclable materials.

What are your views on government schemes, such as the Vehicle Emission Scheme, in driving the push for more EVs in Singapore?

The recent EV announcements and schemes reaffirm Singapore’s commitment to driving EV adoption. While these are very encouraging signs, three key factors must come together for EVs to become a reality on our roads.

To begin, issues of accessibility and infrastructure must be addressed. EVs rely on charging stations, which is a significant infrastructure investment, and lowering this barrier will accelerate EV adoption. At Swag EV, our two-wheeled EVs (2W-EV) are powered by rechargeable lithium batteries instead of specialised charging ports. This means that users can safely charge their batteries at any conventional power points in their homes, offices or even at their favourite cafe.

Second, EVs can provide us with a wealth of data via IoT (Internet of Things) that can be leveraged to gain actionable insights on habits and user patterns. This will enable stakeholders, from manufacturers to governments and end-users, to make informed decisions on key metrics like efficiency and usage.

Lastly, sustained government support and initiatives on issues such as regulatory approvals and subsidies will be key to driving adoption and making EVs a mainstay on our roads.

The government is looking to deploy 60,000 EV charging points across Singapore by 2030. What else can be done to encourage the adoption of EVs?

The government’s initiatives have been crucial to supporting the EV space, but much more needs to be done to drive the adoption of EVs – from range anxiety to low awareness and understanding about EVs.

EVs currently account for only 0.08 per cent of Singapore’s car population. Many existing incentives and programmes will eventually end by 2023, and this timeframe must be extended for EV adoption to arrive at a tipping point where it becomes a mainstay. Realistically, with the current EV adoption rates, 2023 appears to be an extremely ambitious milestone. Moreover, if Singapore is investing resources to deploy 60,000 charging points, there is a risk that these points will be under-utilised for years in the absence of a healthy number of EVs on the roads.

Industry stakeholders will also need to work collaboratively with the government to understand and address the challenges and concerns, while encouraging a mindset shift when it comes to EVs. A sustained effort to educate the general public will also prove to be crucial. We see a real impact on our environment and society when consumers are able to make informed decisions about switching to EV and understand its benefits.

What are some of the EV regulations and standards that you hope to see from the newly formed National Electric Vehicle Centre?

The formation of the National Electric Vehicle Centre is a strong indication that the government is readying our EV industry for a future for which EVs are considered a norm, not a preference. However, we are still miles away from the inflection point where EVs become a norm on our roads. It is important to take a long-term view, even beyond the goals of Singapore’s 2030 Green Plan. To reach a point where Singapore can sustain EV adoption, policies need to reflect and address the challenges and concerns that manufacturers and end-users are currently facing.

Range anxiety is regularly a point of concern for many, and we need to explore alternative charging methods, for instance, battery swapping technology. This pain point can be alleviated with the right combination of infrastructure and technology. Moreover, we have made huge strides in battery safety, and Swag EV’s 2W-EV is powered entirely by rechargeable lithium batteries. We expect that the technology will become more widely used in the near future.

Another aspect of the electric ecosystem which might be overlooked is the readiness of the auto industry to maintain EVs. To ensure that this gap does not become an additional barrier for drivers, the upskilling and retraining of the workforce should take place in tandem, if not faster, than the rate of adoption.

We need to also leverage Singapore’s Smart Nation capabilities for the EV industry. As more EVs hit the roads, we will be sitting on a data mine and we will need to be able to translate it into actionable insights. These insights can help the government further understand usage and user patterns to better shape the policies and regulations around EVs.