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This is it - the (slightly) widened, full-electric crowd that stands before us in Category A after the government's latest stab at making EVs more mass market.

17 May 2022


May is shaping up to be quite special - and no, not just because it's giving us the highest monthly concentration of public holidays for all of 2022. For the first bidding round of the month, a few old names were serendipitously switched over to Category A. 

For a long time now, there's only been one EV available for those looking for something on the more affordable side of the market. But things are different now. In March, the LTA announced that it would be revising the power cap for Category A, exclusively for all-electric models, as a means of making EVs more accessible. 

The widened, full-electric Cat A crowd is the latest measure amidst a growing push to promote EVs
The new rules are now in place, and instead of having to follow the 97kW (or 130bhp) ceiling that applies to hybrid and petrol-only cars, EVs with a power rating of up to 110kW (or 147bhp) can now duke it out in Cat A with the Hyundai Avantes and Mazda3s that Singaporeans dearly love.

Let the Tesla versus Polestar debate cool for a few moments. Here, we're getting into all five of the purportedly mass market EV models you can now buy in Singapore, and investigating how they stack up against each other. 

The cars

The original: Prior to the latest revisions, the BYD e6 had been the only all-electric Cat A resident
As mentioned, five fully electric models now reside under the (actually still quite expensive) wings of Category A. These include two models from Hyundai - the Kona Electric and IONIQ Electric - Nissan's internationally best-selling Leaf, as well as the MG ZS Electric, a compact SUV. 

The final one - or the first, rather - is the BYD e6, which has always managed to duck under the Cat A ceiling. Interesting to note is the fact that the Kia Niro Electric - a name that many had anticipated making this same migration - was recently removed from Kia's local lineup.

Why this was done right before the changes kicked in is unclear, but it's a shame to think that quite a few more Niro Electrics could have taken to our roads. The upcoming Kia EV6 will not qualify for Category A. 

Range

The one with the longest legs: BYD e6 (undoubtedly)
The one with the shortest: Hyundai Kona Electric 39.2kWh (at least officially)

The Hyundai Kona Electric with the smaller 39.2kWh battery pack has the shortest official range 
In almost direct correspondence to its largest battery size, it comes as no surprise that the BYD e6, with its 71.7kWh battery, emerges as the best Cat A marathoner at the moment. Range for the MPV is declared as 522km under WLTP-cycle testing, and while real-world figures will always fall short, our time with the car indicated that it was more than capable of high-400 territory.

On the other hand, you'll notice that we've added some parentheses for this portion because we're a bit hesitant to shame the Hyundai Kona Electric. Officially, it does have the shortest range of 305km. Following behind the BYD e6 is the MG ZS Electric (335km), while the Hyundai IONIQ Electric and the Nissan Leaf are tied (311km).

Our real world tests, however, indicated that all four Cat A-newcomers will return about 300km of driving on a full charge under realistic driving conditions. That's sufficient enough for a week for most of us here - although that's still about half of what you'd get from a full tank on an Altis or Civic.

Charging - both in terms of ease and speed of charging  

The easier ones to live with: Hyundai IONIQ Electric & Kona Electric, MG ZS Electric
The ones you might have more problems with: Nissan Leaf, BYD e6

The battery architectures of both electric Hyundais as well as the MG ZS Electric allow them to be juiced up in 40 minutes via a CCS 50Kw DC charger
We've placed the Hyundai IONIQ Electric and Kona Electric, as well as the MG ZS Electric in the same league for this portion because their vehicle architectures all make for quite easy day-to-day living with. With rapid charging via a 50kW DC (direct current) outlet, replenishing the battery from 10-80% can be done in about 40 minutes - or about one third the duration of most of our lunches when we work from home (I'm joking, I promise). 

Charging via an AC (alternating current) outlet - for instance, a power rating you'll often see is 7.4kW - stretches a full recharge out from anywhere between two to six hours, which coheres more with charging when you've gone home for the day. They're mostly on par here with the power they can support for AC charging, but the IONIQ Electric edges the other two out slightly by supporting up to 11kW, which should see recharging done in less than four and a half hours. 

Both the BYD e6 and Nissan Leaf require just a bit more planning when you're driving around 
The BYD e6 and Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, require proceeding with just a bit more caution, each for a different reason. 

We'll start with the e6. All that extra range also means that you'll have to plan charging out a bit more. While the e6 thankfully supports 43kW AC charging from 0 to 100% in just under two hours, even 50kW DC recharging between 10 to 80% will take about 90 minutes. Arguably still very easy to slip into a day out at a mall, but if you're in a hurry.. well. The easy counter-argument to this, of course, is that covering more distance on a single charge means fewer recharging seshes as well. 

The Nissan Leaf, on the other hand, finds itself in a slight pickle because of, um, adaptor issues. Fast charging the hatchback is possible, but only via the Japanese standard CHAdeMO, which isn't as easily available in Singapore as the CCS (Combined Charging Standard) Type 2 system used on many other EVs. That means sticking with AC outlets most of the time, which will send your charging durations into hours rather than minutes - 8 hours at 6.6kW to be specific. 

The most powerful 

The laggard: BYD e6
The most powerful: Nissan Leaf (with a catch)

Undeniable laggard of the pack: The BYD e6 trades performance for efficiency and range 
"Where art thou?" is the question drivers may find themselves asking of the expected, head-snapping thrills of electric driving when behind the wheel of the BYD e6. That Blade battery it uses may be cutting-edge, but in a one-trick pony sort of way; all efficiency (and safety), and no performance. 

Whether or not that's a good or bad thing is really up to whoever's driving; EVs are supposed to be for the efficiency-oriented folks after all. Still, there's no denying that this offers the least fun among its peers. With only 94bhp and 180Nm on tap, you crawl, not blast, from zero to 100km/h in 17 seconds, meaning that PHV drivers will likely outgun you. 

The thrills of electric power are found most abundantly in the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Kona Electric 
Thankfully, the rest of the pack picks up the pace well enough. Even the second-worst performing (or is it fourth-best performing?) Hyundai IONIQ Electric dials things up significantly, with its LiOn polymer batteries producing 134bhp and 295Nm of torque. The MG ZS Electric is pretty zippy too, boasting 353Nm of peak torque and 141bhp. 

While the real rocketeer here is the Hyundai Kona Electric - 395Nm of instantaneous torque - bragging rights for the most power goes to the evergreen Nissan Leaf (see what we did there?) with its 147bhp, thus putting it right on the margin of the Category A power cap. 

Price

The cheapest: MG ZS Electric
The most expensive (tied):
Hyundai IONIQ Electric, Hyundai Kona Electric

The MG ZS Electric offers incredible value in an accessible, easy-to-live-with package  
The MG ZS Electric's largest selling point, arguably, has always been its value and practicality; it was already among the most accessible EVs pre-transfer to Cat A. At the time of writing, its retail price of $137,800 puts it right in the ballpark of combustion-engined mass market favourites. For a tame-looking, quite well-equipped SUV, that's really not too much to complain about in the current COE climate.  

On the other hand, you'll feel the pinch slightly more for the Hyundai Kona Electric, which is currently listed at $157,800 - at least $20,000 more. The Hyundai IONIQ Electric and Nissan Leaf are admittedly also not too far off, costing just a couple of grand less. Meanwhile, the BYD e6 sits squarely in the middle at $144,800. 

The Hyundai IONIQ Electric, like the Kona Electric and Nissan Leaf, is still priced above $150,000 (for now)
If we focus on the bigger picture, however, these numbers already represent significant five-figure drops from just a month ago. Have Hyundai and Nissan made significant enough strides with their offerings to have their EVs pass off as mid-range? We'd argue so. Furthermore, these are also quite on par with what you'd pay for a hybrid vehicle, like the Honda HR-V e:HEV. The gap is closing for sure. 

We'd also be remiss not to add the caveat that it's highly possible that the actual figures may change in the near future, especially if Category A cools off with the increased supply for this quota period. 

A double-bind: We want more players… But then again, maybe not too quickly

Still stuck: Mass marketeers like the MG 5 EV and the upcoming BYD Atto 3 (pictured) are still to powerful to qualify for EV Category A classification
We're certainly happy to see the migration of more all-electric models into the Category A, but the arbitrary power cap placed on these cars once again throws the question of what's mass market and what's not into the fray. 

To cite an example, MG's 5 EV stationwagon is still in Category B. BYD's upcoming SUV, the Atto 3, has been likewise locked out of Category A because its 150kW of power will be - well - too much power (apparently). 

In other words, our choices are arguably still quite limited. In terms of how far you can go on a single charge, EVs that are closer to matching the ranges of what we'd get from our hybrid and even more fuel-sipping petrol-only family cars all tend to come with bigger, and thus more powerful battery packs. The longer range Hyundai Kona Electric with a 64.0 kWh battery pack isn't joining Category A any time soon. You'll note as a result too that options for EV-seekers in Singapore still swing heavily towards the more upmarket players. 

Nonetheless, the issue of ramping up sufficient charging stations to support our EV population is still up in the air. Some may argue that Singapore's rate of EV adoption is still too slow, but realistically, this appears to be the speed at which things are actually capable of moving along at. When will bottlenecks start emerging at charging points? Hopefully never, but we'll have to wait and see.

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