Electric cars have failed to change the world, so far at least. When the first mass-market 100% electric car, the Nissan Leaf, came out in 2010, some imagined we’d finally free ourselves from our reliance on fossil fuels, reverse air pollution and live in a beautiful world where everyone cared for the earth.
Fat chance. Electric cars have proven a flop with Singaporeans. Despite being one of the world’s best places to go electric—most Singaporeans don’t have to worry about driving long distances to get to a charging station due to the small size of the country—the take-up rate has been dismally low. Then there was that unfortunate incident in which the owner of a Tesla Model S got slapped with a $15,000 carbon emissions surcharge.
Now, Nissan has produced a new hybrid car in an attempt to get people to eventually convert to full-electric cars.
The Nissan Note e-POWER is a hybrid hatchback which uses a smaller battery than those used by fully electric vehicles, one that is charged by an engine that’s powered by petrol (as opposed to an external battery charger).
Basically, that means you need not charge the car at a charging station—instead, you pump petrol just like everyone else. At the same time, you enjoy better fuel economy, since the car is partly propelled by the battery—Nissan Note e-POWER reportedly consumes fuel at a rate of just 34km/l to 37.2 km/l. The drawback? be prepared to pay more upfront for the car.
Now, Nissan hopes the Note e-POWER will change car consumption patterns all over the world and help people to someday make the transition to electric cars.
While some countries like Norway and the Netherlands have taken to electric cars quite well—29.1% of the total new car sales in Norway in 2016 were electric cars—this has not happened in Singapore. Here are the two key factors preventing drivers from going electric.
Like it or not, full electric cars come at a price. While experts expect the cost of electric cars to fall over time, for now it is still significantly more expensive to purchase one than a normal car.
In other countries, the cost of buying an electric car can be offset somewhat by how much you save on petrol. Recharging the battery of an electric car costs more than 5 times less than running a similar car on petrol. Maintenance is also cheaper.
In Singapore, on the other hand, the upfront cost of buying a car is so much higher than almost anywhere else in the world that purchasers are deterred from going electric even if the operating costs of the car might be lower in the long term. The fact that the COE of a car is only valid for a maximum of 10 years also means it is less likely buyers can recoup the extra cost before it expires.
Furthermore, fully electric cars are still very expensive relative to their conventional counterparts at about 3 times the cost of similar vehicles. It doesn’t help that taxes on cars are calculated according to the open market value. That means that buying a more expensive electric vehicle means you get taxed more.
Even after taking into account any rebates you might receive for buying a car that produces lower carbon emissions, the cost of an electric car still exceeds that of an equivalent conventional car.
So even if people start to use more affordable hybrids like the Nissan Note e-POWER, it is unlikely they will make the switch to going fully-electric unless prices fall significantly.
If cost were no concern, Singapore would actually be one of the best places in the world to drive an electric car since the country is so tiny. Electric cars aren’t so great for those who have to drive long distances—there are people in larger countries whose commute to work is 100km, and for them it would be a pain to have to charge the vehicle twice a day.
However, Singaporeans’ standards when it comes to convenience are also a lot higher. The hours worked here are longer than in most other nations, and people also sleep less. Nobody’s got time to drive a charging station every few days. There are actually quite a few charging stations in Singapore, but still far fewer than petrol kiosks.
And frankly, making anyone routinely travel more than 10 minutes to charge their cars is not going to work. Plus, it takes 30 minutes to 12 hours to charge an electric car’s battery. Heck, I’ve been stranded by the side of the road twice because I “didn’t have the time” to top up my motorcycle’s fuel tank, when I live 2 minutes from a petrol station, so….
So it looks like the Nissan Note ePower is not going to be a very effective “gateway drug” in encouraging Singaporeans to make the switch to electric cars in the near future.
What WILL encourage people to make the switch are cheaper electric cars and more charging stations.
Nissan is paving the way to lowering the cost of production for both hybrid and electric vehicles by sharing components and R&D. And the more electric vehicles are snapped up in Singapore, the more charging stations will appear to meet the demand.
Do you think you will ever buy an electric car? Tell us in the comments!