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With the arrival of its latest range of plug-in hybrid vehicles, BMW is leading the drive for automotive electrification in Singapore.

12 Sep 2017

Electric cars have been available for mainstream sale for over a decade now, but their take-up rate has been relatively slow in Singapore. It is a bizarre situation, given that Singapore is arguably the perfect environment for electric mobility to flourish, thanks to our compact size and short travelling distances.

The key issue standing in the way of electric vehicles and their proliferation here is the lack of public charging infrastructure, which is a crucial factor for Singapore given that the majority of the population lives in public housing. Without easily accessible charging points, it is only natural that people will be hesitant to embrace electric mobility. And companies wouldn't want to invest in infrastructure if they do not see the market demand for it, so it ultimately becomes a chicken-and-egg situation.

BMW is taking matters into its own hands, by pushing ahead with its electrification drive in Singapore. We speak to Paul de Courtois, Managing Director of BMW Group Asia, who shares with us the company's plans for electric mobility in Singapore, and how it intends to tackle the issues and help push start the electrification drive on our sunny island.

Electric vehicles will be a big part of our daily lives, according to Paul, a view that BMW shares
1. Electric mobility is coming whether you like it or not

Much as enthusiasts crave the sounds of a high-revving internal combustion engine, the truth is there is no escaping the electrification of cars. Emissions standards are only going to get stricter in the years ahead, and a number of countries, such as France and the United Kingdom, have even committed to phasing out sales of internal combustion cars over the next few decades.

As Paul tells us, "I personally believe electric vehicles will be part of our daily lives as more and more cities throughout the world aim to reduce carbon emissions." It is a view that the company shares, and BMW demonstrated its commitment to electric mobility by bringing in the BMW i3 and the BMW i8 electrified models for sale in 2014, well before any other carmakers locally.

Paul reveals that the BMW Group aims to deliver 100,000 electrified vehicles to customers globally in 2017. And they are well on their way to achieving that target, with about 42,500 units sold in the first half of this year already, an 80 percent increase over the corresponding period last year. But Singapore is still a minor contributor to those figures.

According to Paul, countries around the world are embracing electric vehicles, and Singapore has plenty to catch up on
2. Singapore is lagging far behind in electric mobility

Having had extensive experience working for BMW in various European countries, Paul is able to offer insights as to what the electrification scene is like and the lessons that Singapore can learn in terms of infrastructure management and legislation.

For example, Paul shares, "In Poland, the Ministry of Energy announced last year that one million electric vehicles will be registered in Poland by 2025." However, he adds that "it is a very ambitious target as there are currently no benefits to customers and the charging infrastructure is limited at just over 300 stations."

Other countries appear to be more progressive in their electrification process. For instance, Paul mentions that in other European markets, Electric Vehicle (EV) owners are provided with free parking, use of bus lanes, and tax benefits. As such, in markets such as Germany, electric cars now form over a quarter of the vehicle population, and there are over 7,400 charging points throughout the country as of April 2017.

Even around the region, Singapore's neighbours have been making great strides in the push towards electric mobility. Paul reveals that The Philippines recently approved a tax reform package proposed by the Department of Finance (DoF), which stated that cars that are 'purely powered by electricity, or by electricity in combination with gasoline, diesel or any other motive power', are exempted from excise tax.

As such, Singapore has much to do in order to keep up with the electric mobility movement.

BMW is pushing hard to get the electrification process going in Singapore, by working with Greenlots to build up the charging infrastructure on our island
3. BMW is pushing the drive to help Singapore catch up

To that end, BMW is driving ahead with the automotive electrification process in Singapore. Paul emphasises that the race to be the first to offer plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) for general sale is "neither tactical nor marketing." He insists that the BMW Group "believes that sustainable mobility is the future and have demonstrated our commitment to this strategy" by bringing in cars like the i3 and the i8, and now the range of PHEVs consisting of the BMW 225xe Active Tourer, 330e Sedan, 530e Sedan, 740Le xDrive and X5 xDrive40e.

With regards to charging infrastructure, BMW has worked with Greenlots, a private developer, to set up charging stations at various points around Singapore. According to Paul, "There are currently 60 public charging stations at 32 locations spread across Singapore." And the number is set to grow, with over 400 publicly-accessible electric charging points set to be installed over the next four years, thanks to an upcoming electric car-sharing programme run by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the Economic Development Board (EDB) and private company BlueSG.

For those living in public housing, Paul shares that "BMW has worked with Greenlots to make charging at their workplace become a reality." But he adds that there needs to be some input from the relevant authorities as well. "We are open to working with the Singapore Government in the future as PHEVs and EVs will require support from all sides in order to succeed."

By taking the first step, however, Paul hopes that BMW will spark a revolution in the electrification movement in Singapore. "We hope as a wider range of EVs and PHEVs become available in Singapore, adoption will increase and thereby demand for a more expansive charging infrastructure." And that is what BMW is aiming to achieve in the quest for sustainable electric mobility in Singapore with their range of PHEVs.
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