A Dummies' Guide To Owning An Electric Vehicle In Singapore

CarBuyer Team

Buying An EV

The Audi E-Tron GT

Before 2021, BEVs were significantly more expensive than an equivalent gasoline car, but now mainstream BEVs can be found for close to the prices of regular gasoline cars.

After 2021, the government has introduced rebates in the form of the EEAI (EV Early Adoption Initiative) together with a revised VES system, which can make BEVs up to S$45,000 cheaper than before.

But that’s not to say all BEVs are more affordable now. Because of how the rebates are applied and computed based on Open Market Value (OMV), only the more expensive BEVs get the highest rebate (see our story link for more details) and it does not apply equally, meaning the prices of some BEVs have dropped significantly, and others not so.

You could drive away in an MG 5 EV for around S$130k with COE (as of Oct 2021), a price not far off from a petrol-powered Continental-brand family sedan. A Tesla Model 3 meanwhile will cost you around S$170k with COE, while a luxury BEV like the Audi E-Tron or Mercedes EQC, typically costs at least S$250k with COE.

In 2021, the available BEV models on sale also constitute a wide range of car types and budgets. If you need a van for business, there’s even a BEV rebate for that in 2021 too.

Cost of Ownership

Dollar-per-km: Petrol vs Hybrid vs EV

EfficiencyFuel Price Per UnitPrice per full tank/chargeFull tank/charge rangePrice Per Km
Hyundai Elantra 1.66.4L/100km$2.48*$124.00 / 50L781.25km$0.1587
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid3.8L/100km$2.48*$111.60 / 45L1,184km$0.0942
Hyundai Ioniq Electric10kWh/100km$0.4949 per kWh**$13.85 / 28kWh280km$0.04946

Prices from October 2021 *Caltex 95 after on-site discount **SP Group public charging rate at 50kW DC charging, not counting charging/grid inefficiency etcetera

Owning an electric car is cheaper than a petrol-powered one. As you can see on our chart, the per-km cost is magnitudes less than a gasoline car. But you can also look forward to saving money on maintenance.

Electric vehicle maintenance consists mostly of ensuring the electric and power systems are healthy (the onboard systems should do that already), brake pads and brake fluid are fresh, and tyres are usable. No engine means no spark plugs, no oil or air filters or similar consumables, less coolant and fluid replacements needed.

In 2018, Hyundai says, “Compared to a 1.6-litre class, petrol-driven family sedan, the Ioniq Electric will save you more than $5,000 in maintenance over a 10-year, 200,000km ownership period.”

Renault also says a Zoe owner can save $1,300 on service at 30,000km (only one service is needed, compared to three for a normal car)

A key concern for EVs, as it was for hybrids, is battery longevity. Reassuringly hybrid cars have shown that there are no major issues with battery packs and their lifespan – and it looks to be the same for EVs too.

Modern power electronics are very good at keeping the batteries in peak working condition (charge levels, temperature etc), so battery packs are rated for the lifetime of the vehicle.

Tesla owners around the world, for example, have experienced good longevity with their cars. According to predictive models, the batteries can retain up to 80 percent charge after 840,000km.

Local dealers also offer longer terms for battery warranties than the standard five-year car warranty: Hyundai’s is 10 years for the battery, BMW’s is eight years, 200,000km. 

Road Tax 

Road tax used to be obscenely high for BEVs here – a Tesla Model X’s was higher than a Ferraris (see reference chart below). But thankfully that has all changed in 2021.

In 2021, the introduction of the EEAI and revision to road tax means BEV’s have a much better time of it.

As of February 2021, the road tax for a relatively mainstream BEV is more expensive than that of a gasoline car, but not hugely so. The revised road tax formula is insanely complex, but it’s calculated based on a BEV’s power output. The LTA’s calculator tool is here, for reference.

The MG ZS EV, which has 141hp and at S$125k with COE is one of the more affordable BEVs now, pays an annual road tax of S$1,147. In comparison, a regular petrol-powered 1.6-litre family car pays S$742 per annum.

However one part of the road tax system is still strange: EVs will have to pay an additional flat sum per year – in all of 2021, it’s S$200. In 2022 it’s S$400, and from 2023 on, it’s a considerable S$700. Potential BEV owners will need to factor that into the cost over 10 years of ownership.

Reference: EV Road Tax Pre-2021

I want an electrified car, but have no place to charge…

If you want the benefits of electric power, here’s the secret: Since the ‘full’ electric revolution is still at least a decade away (see next section), in the meantime hybrids and plug-in hybrids offer the benefits of electric cars, but with the relevance of a petrol support network.

2021 is not the year of the electric car, but the year of the hybrid: Thanks to VES making them as affordable – if not more – than gasoline cars, hybrid cars are going straight into the mainstream.

The evidence? In 2021 Toyota and Honda have already launched three mainstream hybrid cars – the Toyota Yaris Cross and Toyota Harrier, and the Honda Jazz, respectively. Even in the luxury segment, hybrids punch far above their weight. And looking at the data, even before VES revisions in 2021, 2020 saw 42,000 hybrids on the road, an all time high.

Are EVs really the way forward?

air pollution

Singapore’s power is generated mostly by natural gas, which is far cleaner than coal. But there is also an increasing impetus toward renewables – again, part of a global trend – and in the near future we will be able to purchase electricity from clean sources from providers like Sunseap.

The practical side of the matter is – Singapore is going away from combustions engines too. The government’s Green Plan also indicates that by 2030, it will begin to discourage the sale of new combustion-engined vehicles, and to end them by 2040.

Why? Pollution. We’ve seen the EV pros and cons, but the important thing is that we’ve realised air pollution from vehicles is a major negative for us, and the world.

As we’ve reported previously (‘Singapore’s air pollution level is much worse than you think’, ‘Is your car killing you slowly?’, on, air pollution is an increasingly major killer of people worldwide. In 2019, Singapore’s own air pollution is, by some metrics, two or three times the World Health Organisation’s optimal levels.

EVs emit nothing from their tailpipes, so you can happily ‘idle’ the car and enjoy air-conditioning while waiting, knowing you’re not slowly killing everyone around you.

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CarBuyer Team

CarBuyer Singapore brings the most relevant, accurate and useful car news to Singaporeans in both print and online formats.

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