SG Motorshow 2018: Green Machines

Derryn Wong

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SG Motorshow 2018’s Eco Warriors: Could EVs and plug-ins really go mainstream in Singapore this year?

2018 could be the year the next step of electrification really gains acceptance in Singapore, at least if the Motorshow is used as a barometer. Of the cars on stand at the show, we’ve picked the four greenest examples, and it’s no coincidence that three of them are pure, battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs), one is a plug-in and remaining car a conventional parallel petrol-hybrid.

The Vehicle Emissions Scheme (VES), which started on January 1, 2018, might prove a prime motivator. Thanks to the scheme, which grades cars on various pollutants, the Hyundai Ioniq EV for example, receives the maximum rebate of $20,000.

That’s very good news for everybody’s lungs. While EVs and plug-ins still need charging, Singapore’s gas-fired powerplants are far less dirty than coal or oil-fired ones. In fact, we may be on the cusp of a solar revolution as a man, his BMW i3 EV, and zero-dollar petrol bill prove.

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Of course, it’s been a long, slow road to electrification. EVs first starred in the TIDES scheme, from 2011, though the cars themselves had very limited range – we tested the Mitsubishi i-MIEV and first-gen Nissan Leaf and were constantly paranoid about not being able to make it home. TIDES itself proved little use to anyone, and the data from that scheme has not surfaced anywhere else, to our knowledge, and EVs remained stalled until now.

2013 saw the launch of the first commercially available EV with a real-life usable range, the BMW i3, though it was technically a hybrid thanks to the range-extender unit.

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See that? That’s a ‘I’m smiling because there are no horrible fumes to breathe in (at least in the immediate vicinity)’ smile

Conventional hybrids were slow to pick up in sales until 2016, where cab companies and private hire-car companies were quick to capitalise on their fuel-efficiency and urban-suitedness. That year also saw inexpensive Korean hybrids fare better in sales to private owners, notably the Kia Niro and Hyundai Ioniq.  

Hyundai sold 202 hybrids last year, while Kia sold 476 hybrids. Compared to gasoline cars – or parallel-import Japanese hybrids – that’s not a huge proportion, but it does show that the Singaporean appetite for hybrids is certainly there, as long as they’re well-priced.

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The new Vehicular Emissions Scheme, however, has put a dent in the affordability of hybrids. While many of them enjoyed a full $30k rebate under the previous Carbon-Emissions Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), some are now only eligible for a $10k rebate, or neutral (no rebate), which means prices have gone up, especially in comparison to conventional cars and battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs).

Still, of the obviously-green cars showed at Suntec, two were plug-ins, with only one being a conventional hybrid. If anything, that shows the (green) writing on the wall is being read by many more. 

Hyundai Ioniq EV $149,888 with COE

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That price tag looks big, but really isn’t: As mentioned, the Ioniq Hybrid broke barriers with its competitive pricing, but hybrid cars haven’t benefitted as much from VES as pure EVs seem to – that’s because to qualify for the maximum VES rebate you need zero particulate emissions, so anything with a combustion engine of any sort won’t qualify. So while the Ioniq EV costs almost $150k, it’s only $16k more expensive than the hybrid. Toyota’s excellent fourth-gen Prius, in comparison, now sadly costs $159,988 with COE.

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The Hyundai Ioniq was one of two Korean hybrids that really helped push the acceptance of petrol-electric cars to the mainstream in 2016 and 2017. Internationally, the Ioniq was launched in three variants – hybrid, EV and plug-in, though only the former made it to Singapore.

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Now the full EV model is here, packing a 120hp,  295Nm electric motor, with a top speed of 165km/h and 0-100km/h time of 9.9-seconds. The car’s power source is a 28kWh lithium-ion polymer battery (located under the rear seats) which Hyundai says is good for a quoted range of 280km.

Hyundai quotes 30-minutes for a charge with a fast charger, but third-party information indicates four to five hours with a home charging box (not included), or nine to 10-hours with a conventional 220v power point (this method is currently not EMA approved).

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The Ioniq EV includes many of the features of the hybrid model, such as wireless smartphone charging and infotainment system, while dealer Komoco Motors is offering the industry standard 10-year battery warranty, plus 24 hour recovery service to allay fears of stranding. The latter uses another Ioniq EV with a power converter (white Ioniq pictured above) to recharge the stranded car.

Nissan Leaf

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The first Nissan Leaf was a trailblazing electric vehicle (EV) but like many early EVs, its battery life left something to be desired. The second-generation model was launched globally in late 2017, and was featured at Nissan’s technology showcase during the Singapore Motorshow 2018.

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It’s all new, and has a 40kWh lithium-ion battery pack with a quoted range of 400km, as well as a more powerful electric motor with 150hp and 320Nm. Besides being a practical five-door hatchback, the Leaf also has Nissan’s new ProPilot assist system, which like many semi-autonomous systems will help the driver steer, brake and accelerate under certain conditions (though it’s not fully autonomous).

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The car was on non-sale showcase, but Nissan says it intends to sell the new Leaf in Singapore in the near future, and will also also be aiming to introduce its e-power models as well. E-power refers to serial hybrid cars, where there is no battery – instead, a combustion engine supplies power to an electric motor. The E-power range started with the compact hatchback Note E-power, and later this year, an E-power Nissan Serena will debut in Japan. 

Toyota Prius+

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There’s a new addition to the Prius family, joining the fourth-gen Prius hatch, and the Prius C compact hatch (recently facelifted): It’s the seven-seat multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), the Prius+.

The car has its roots in the third-gen Prius (rather than the TNGA architecture of the current model), but should still deliver excellent performance. It’s longer, wider and taller than the fourth-gen model, with an 80mm increase to wheelbase (2,780mm) to squeeze in the extra third-row of seats.

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Rear seats look sizeable enough for short journeys with full-sized passengers

Interestingly, this also makes the Prius+ the first officially imported Japanese hybrid MPV.

The normal Prius has 457-litres of boot space, but the Prius+ has 232-litres (three seat rows), 784-litres (two-rows) and 1,750-litres (rear passenger seats all folded).

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The car’s powered by a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder engine with 81hp motor and 98hp system total output – interestingly the Prius+ was the first Prius to have a lithium ion battery pack (1.0kWh capacity).

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Initial performance figures are 0-100km/h in 11.3 seconds, a top speed of 165km/h, 4.5L/100km and 105g/km CO2.

Borneo Motors has yet to release pricing for the Prius+, but the car has already been homologated and sales should begin soon.

The Singapore Motorshow 2018 runs from January 11th to 14th at the Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre. Tickets cost S$6 . The show closes daily at 10pm


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About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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