Monday, 5 October 2015

Singapore Combats Climate Change - A Future History Lesson

A Brief History of the Future in Singapore
Combatting Climate Change - Lesson in Making Fossil Fuel History
The sEV Revolution in Singapore (2020-2035)
A brief history of our electric mobility future
[ A Fictional Reality Story ]

In 2035, Singapore becomes the first country in the world to have nearly 100% electric vehicles (EV) on the road.  From 2034, only EVs are allowed to be imported and sold in Singapore. Unlike other countries, Singapore deploys a nationwide EV charging network powered completely by natural renewable energy, mostly solar power and some urban wind energy, which make it truly sustainable. The EV infrastructure is part of a national sustainable mobility infrastructure consisting of smart roads, internet-based mobile apps, human mobility engineers, public transports, carparks, natural energy, commercial and industrial buildings as well as residential apartments and houses.

Modern cities by definition and design are not sustainable due mainly to their reliance on fossil fuels which resulted in unacceptable levels of carbon emissions, negative impact on human health as well as their over-consumption of other non-renewable resources. Future generations bear the increasingly burdensome costs of their maintenance and expansion. 

This is a brief “history of the future” in Singapore’s audacious plan to engage global climate change by making fossil fuel history through a massive total replacement of its vehicular traffic by sustainable electric vehicles (sEV) and their impact on Singapore electric mobility life-styles.

One Happy Motoring Day in Singapore in 2035

I left home at 7am that morning and was greeted by a pleasant “Good morning, Michael; 100% charged” effeminate voice. “Thank you”, I replied, before realizing that I was talking to a machine!

As I slide into my sEV, a 7-series BMW, I decided to switch to driverless mode and let the vehicle brings me to my favourite breakfast meeting location.  The location is one of several destinations visited before and “remembered” by the sEV’s onboard computer. The smart sEV leverages on Singapore’s island-wide wired IT network seeking the intelligent road system via GPS Google Maps and my Mobile Apps to plot the best and fastest route with the least morning traffic jam. It “remembers” every destination visited, monitors possible traffic hot-spots real-time and tracks useful motoring services such as charging points, car wash, tire shops, seven-eleven shops and eating places.  If desired, one can even scan for sEVs of friends within 3km, calling up their contacts and connect with them via the hands-free telephone built into the steering wheel.

It is a busy morning. From the breakfast meeting to Changi Airport to pick up a couple of key clients, to their hotels at Marina Bay, before going to Jurong, Bedok and the City centre for other meetings.  Hours passed. Suddenly, the voice reminded: “40% power”, which I believed to be adequate for the rest of my day. Automatically, the eEV shows all the proximate charging locations, highlighting those where I have been before and those associated with my sEV Power Membership. I chose a new shopping centre just 5 minutes away to have lunch.     

The carpark operator of the new shopping centre is not associated with my sEV Power Membership. Charging for sEV is however free for shopping centre patrons. The entry point recognises my IU and vehicle number. Anyway, adhoc charging fee can always be deducted from the IU cashcard if necessary.

The car park has remote charging in every car park lot. I pull into a lot, and the onboard sEV computer confirms the vehicle’s alignment with the charging strip embedded on the floor and I engaged the remote charging with a voice command “engage”. How convenient. No need to connect charging cable to my sEV.  

Solar-powered charging stations are available everywhere in private as well as HDB/URA carparks and commercial buildings. Most charging is free since it consumes very little energy and, if any, included in the parking fee. There are also sEV Power-Stops mostly located at former petrol stations, now obsolete.  At sEV Power Stops, one finds supermarkets, café, food courts, fast food restaurants, gym, snooker saloon, reading rooms and free internet hot spots.  Drivers of sEVs are occupied while his sEV undergoes fast charging and a car grooming session. Many sEV service providers sell special monthly packages for unlimited charging for as low as $30 per month. This is awesome savings when compared with the $400-$500 on petrol one previously spent for fossil fuel vehicles.      

The shopping centre is one of several new buildings which incorporate renewable energy into its design. The Government has earlier motivated developers with non-financial incentives by way of increased GFA (or Gross Floor Area) bonus should they choose to invest in renewable energy in an enhanced manner. Developers were already required earlier to provide for sEV-ready car parks in their building plans. For every 10% use of renewable energy would earn a 20% bonus in the permitted GFA.

The GFA measures the sheltered floor areas of a building and unsheltered areas for commercial uses for purposes of plot ratio control and development charge.  Any GFA bonus essentially reduces the cost of the building and allows more usable space to be built and marketed.  Using the GFA does not cost the public a single cent and allows developers to invest in the renewable energy equipment and infrastructure to reduce fossil fuel consumption. It adds to better building sustainability. 

Developers have hitherto focused on “green” buildings and energy efficiency as their sustainability guide.  By 2020, the oxymoronic notion of sustainable “green” buildings is discarded to embrace a wholly natural energy basis for sustainable buildings, in addition to using sustainable building materials and accessories. The use of absorption chiller air-conditioning systems, waste heat re-circulation, re-cycling used water and a host of other measures are part of the developer’s arsenal for a sustainable building.      

Developers develop Master Energy Plans for their buildings for sustainable end goals such as zero carbon footprint, easy maintenance, comfort and productivity, and with extended life-cycles. To achieve zero footprint, developers deploy renewable sources such as solar thermal, solar photovoltaic (PV), urban wind and water.

The shopping centre has a condominium consisting of low-rise blocks to high 30-storeys towers. Built in a unique East-West facing to maximize solar and urban wind impact, its seeming all-glass façade are actually solar PV panel arrays which also adorn its roof-top next to absorption chillers. Small wind turbines can be seen at strategic locations to capture the wind gusts bursting through the buildings to produce urban wind energy, which together with the solar PVs power the elevators, as well as common and household lighting and heating. The complex is rated RE70, meaning renewable energy drives up to 70% of its energy needs. Only a very small fraction of this renewable energy (just 1 kW-hr per parking lot) is needed for sEV charging.  

I finish my lunch, and the restaurant endorses the complimentary sEV charging before proceeding to the car park.  My sEV greets me: “Welcome back, Michael. 100% charged”. The top-up charging from 40% to 100% takes less than an hour while I have lunch. How convenient indeed.

I decided to take charge and drive to my next meetings before proceeding home to prepare for the evening dinner with the newly arrival clients.  An incoming call from oversea requesting a short conference prompted me into the driverless mode again, as I continue the journey without stopping.

Along the way, I wonder whether I should take either an electric bus or sEV Taxi later since the dinner venue is quite near my house.

The sEV revolution offers motorists numerous advantages in the areas of energy efficiency, motoring costs and pollution emissions. The sEV engine is twice more efficient than previous fossil fuel vehicles (FFV), with braking efficiency around 65% as compared with 18%-23% for FFV. Using renewable energy for battery charging means virtually zero carbon emissions, when compared with only 66% reduction in carbon emission when using electricity from fossil fuel (gas) generation previously.

This is my 2nd sEV, being one of the first to benefit from the 10% COE (Certificate of Entitlement) first released for sEV in 2026. COEs for sEV are competitive from the get-go but affordable when one factors in the convenience, lower maintenance cost and recurring energy cost.  Prices for sEV has become much lower than standard fossil fuel vehicles, whose prices and base COE prices gradually tripled after the Government acknowledged the unacceptable social costs associated with their harmful CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions.

Battery technology for sEV has improved leaps and bounds. They charge faster, hold more charge, cheaper and last longer. A typical fully-charged battery can last more than 250km instead of just 150km in 2015.  Singaporeans on the average drive less than 60km each day. Similarly, taxis clocked from 250km to less than 300km daily.

As smart vehicles, the computers onboard sEVs are embedded with smart technology where one can remotely summon your sEV from a car-park or home via the GPS locator on your person eg watch, pen or clothing, and instruct it to return home or to a transitional parking location to await your next summon. Various buildings and many commercial buildings have designated driverless taxi stand and carparks to add to the convenience of happy electric mobility. 

Climate Change Threat to Our Survival – Why sEV Matters 

For years, many scientific studies by the United Nations and other credible research institutes have all concluded that human activities in the past 250 years are responsible for global warming of nearly 2oC (Celsius) through increasing massive greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, gas) for rapid industrial development.  The Final Solution is simple – Make Fossil Fuel History.

Singapore has committed to reduce emission by 16% below 2020 levels. We are responsible for less than 0.2% of global emissions and rank 123rd out of 137 countries in terms of its carbon emissions per US$ GDP and 27th out of 137 countries in terms of per capita emissions mainly from our refineries and petrochemical sector. Grid electricity is generated by fossil fuel gas, which replaced previous petrol-fed power stations to gas generation thereby reducing carbon emissions by half. Gas is however also non-renewable fuel source.

Key Policy Review and Innovations

For Singapore, the truth that “Green is NOT Sustainable” hits home and the impact of global warming in devastating coastal regions and hamper valuable food crops demands an innovative response from a resourceful Singapore, where only an audacious and unconventional solution would create the kind of impact for the world to emulate. 

The massive adoption of EVs must be within the wider context of climate change and carbon emission reduction. It requires a coordinated national effort and resolve. Obsolete paradigms regarding sustainability, fossil fuel, vehicular mobility and national survival need to be re-calibrated and re-configured for the sake of Singapore’s future.

The success factors of the sEV Revolution in Singapore can be narrowed to the following:

(1)    The sEV transformation is not just a transport policy but a critical tool to combat climate change and global warming by making fossil fuel history; 

(2)    The measures to make sEVs more affordable are not “consumption subsidies” as narrowly conceived previously. They are actually social investments in the sustainability of future Singapore generations.

(3)    Import duties on sEVs are reduced. Road tax for fossil fuel cars increased sharply due to the unacceptable social costs associated with their harmful CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions.

(4)    Prices for sEV become much lower when the authorities allow the exclusion of the sEV battery, which constitutes about 40% of its cost, from import tax computation, provided sEV vendors import them separately. The sEVs could be sold without any battery; and batteries are separately purchased or more popularly subscribed to under various sEV Membership Power Plans sold by many sEV service providers. Batteries are recyclable and a healthy, vibrant industry exists for second-hand batteries. Some sEV models provide for battery swapping instead of charging; others have both modes.

(5)    Renewable energy such as solar PV and urban wind is both feasible better alternatives. Solar energy has already achieved grid parity in Singapore in terms of costs from 2014. Up-scaling solar power in buildings and car parks to serve the 100% sEV populations brings investment payback to less than 5 years with much cheaper solar technologies.

(6)    Solar-powered carparks have been prevalent in Germany and Europe for the past 20 years.  The often-misquoted variability of solar electrical generation is effectively addressed by companies such as ABB, Siemens and Bosch, among others.

(7)    Buildings and developers are key elements of the solution for reducing emission through the enhanced adoption of solar and urban wind power. The use of GFA is an ingenious non-financial incentive to motivate and encourage developers towards lowering fossil fuel dependency in their buildings. The sheer beneficial economics of GFA bonus guarantees its effectiveness. Building owners need only to provide 1KW-hr per parking lot charging point, which is a tiny fraction of the entire building energy consumption.

(8)    The clever use of COEs (Certificates of Entitlement) to gradually scale-up sEV adoption enables a complete transformation of Singapore road vehicles to 100% sEVs within just 10 years. This is a remarkable feat only possible in Singapore where more than 95% of road vehicles are less than 10-years old.

The Appendix chronicles the “historical” milestones of policy and measures during our passage to achieve sustainable electric mobility. They tell the story of an exceptional resourceful nation, led by visionary leadership at every level, embarking on an audacious ambitious plan towards making fossil fuel history through the 100% transformation of its fossil fuel vehicular traffic to electric vehicles powered by natural renewable energy. In the end, the sEV becomes more than just a mode of transportation to usher an epoch of rich electric mobility lifestyle for our sustainable future.

Imagine the Possible – Greater Energy Security with Reduced Carbon Emission

The sEV revolution requires an entirely innovative nationwide infrastructure harnessing natural solar and urban wind energy to empower sEV car-parks, sEV power hubs and charging points, sEV workshops and sEV buildings in place of current petrol stations, motor workshops and conventional car parks.

Singapore as a resourceful nation provides the world a showcase of possible electric mobility opportunities and life-style.

The sEV revolution in Singapore reduces our oil dependency by nearly 20%. A 100% sEV population simply eliminated the 16% of imported oil that used to go directly to petrol pumps to quench our fossil fuel vehicles.  This adds to significant energy security and cuts carbon emission drastically.

Singapore electric grid infrastructure remains a strong backup to reinforce continuous energy suppy in times of haze or environment hazards which may impede our solar and urban wind power generation.  The grid infrastructure is however empowered by power stations that produce electricity generated by fossil fuel gas.

This peek into our future suggests sEV (powered by renewables) as that proverbial tipping point pebble on the status quo calm water to produce rippling waves after waves of "healthy" truly sustainable electric mobility impact throughout the society for a better and more responsible future Singapore. 

Just imagine the possible, people. 

A Bullet-Points History of Singapore’s Sustainable EV Revolution (2020-2035)

Strategic Sustainable Mobility Framework Blueprint
National Consultations:
Declaring War to Make Fossil Fuel History
Communications & Consultations with Tax Authorities, Land Transport Authority, MOE, HDB,  Car Trade Associations, SBS, SMRT, Private Bus Operators, Architects, Car-Park Operators, Automobile Association, Business Chambers, Petroleum Companies, Electric Vehicles Distributors, Electric Car Storage Vendors, Education & Training Institutes, SEAS, Real Estate Developers, Financial Institutions,  Retailers Associations, Architects, Community Organisations and Public.
Social Capital Investments – Tax and Funding Incentives
a)    COE Structures for sEV and Other Vehicles
b)    Road Tax Structures for sEV and Other Vehicles
c)    Funding & GFA Incentives for New sEV-Ready Buildings
d)    Funding & Incentives to Make Existing Buildings sEV-Ready.
e)    Funding & Incentives for Open sEV Carparks using Solar power.
Human Talent Development & Investments
a)    Universities and Polytechnics launch sEV Automotive Engineering degrees and diplomas, as well as in Renewable Energy, Electrical Storage and Sustainable Engineering.
b)    Scholarships and Education Incentives for the first few batches of sEV Automotive Engineers, Renewal Energy and Sustainable Engineering.
c)    Universities and Polytechnics launch various Management Programs in Mobility Life-styles.
d)    10% COE for sEVs.
e)    10% COE for sEV Taxi   
f)     New Building Plans to have 10% sEV-Ready Car parks
g)    HDB and URA Car Parks begin program to become 100% sEV-Ready progressively over 5 years.
International Conference & Exhibition on SEV Supply Chain
a)    Showcasing leading manufacturers and innovations in sEV, storage devices, Solar Car Parks and sEV supply chain, and sEV-friendly building designs as well as Universities and education institutes having sEV automotive engineering and renewable energy curriculum.
b)    Investment incentives and OHQ funding for Joint Ventures in sEV and sEV supply chain products, and related service providers.
c)    New Industries with New Jobs for Sustainable Electrical Mobility.
d)   20% COE for sEVs.
e)   20% COE for sEV Taxi   
f)    New Building Plans to have 30% sEV-Ready Car parks.

  – Our Passage To Sustainable Electric Mobility

a)   30% COE for sEVs.
b)   30% COE for sEV Taxi   
c)   New Building Plans to have 40% sEV-Ready Car parks.
d)   SBS & SMRT begin 7-year Program to replace fleet with sEVs and solar-powered buses.

a)   40% COE for sEVs.
b)   40% COE for sEV Taxi   
c)   New Building Plans to have 50% sEV-Ready Car parks.
d)   First  Batch of Graduates in sEV Automotive Engineers, Renewable Energy and Sustainable Engineering.
e)   First Series of Open sEV Carpark powered by Solar Energy.
a)   50% COE for EVs.
b)   50% for EV Taxi   
c)   New Building Plans to have 80% sEV-Ready Car parks.
d)   Status Review of sEV Transformation Progress.
Integrated Development    Conversion of Existing Petrol Stations into sEV Pit-Stop incorporating Battery-charging, F&B Outlets and Recreation eg Spa, Bowling, Billiads, Gym … etc and to enable minimum of 3-hour fast-charging.
a)   70% COE for EVs.
b)   70% for EV Taxi   
c)   All HDB/URA Carparks sEV Ready

a)   90% COE for sEVs.
b)   90% for sEV Taxi   
c)   New Building Plans to have 100% sEV-Ready Car parks.
a)   100% COE for sEVs Only.
b)   100% COE for sEV Taxi Only.
a)   100% Sustainable Electric Vehicles (sEV) Population.
b)   All SBS & SMRT Buses are sEVs.
c)   All Taxis are sEVs; some are driverless. 
d)   All New Buildings under construction are designated sEV-Ready.

Article was first published in the SG50 Book "BEYOND 50 - Imagine Singapore"; 
The FREE Book can be downloaded from:   BEYOND 50 – Imagine Singapore


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  2. Congratulations Michael Heng for an interesting "imagine" article.

    I hope your imagination is sufficiently intuitive to see at least parts of it becoming reality for Singapore in the next 2 decades as you have imagined it.

    I wonder if you have verified or evaluated the potential renewable energy (RE) options open to Singapore, & other similar regions like Malaysia. Your confidence in solar PV & 'urban wind power" generation being able to feed the sEVs & the other electricity needs for the population of Singapore appear to be in the realm of a "Walter Mitty World" imagination, as your article is meant to be (at least as I understand it).

    Sorry I just came to know of it so my comments are obviously rather late.

    Good luck & cheers.

    1. Everything described in the future are doable today, as long as political leadership and will is willing to drive the vision. The 2035 100% sEV future is not limited by technology or infrastructure. The timeline can begin now.

  3. Congratulations Michael Heng for an interesting "imagine" article.

    I hope your imagination is sufficiently intuitive to see at least parts of it becoming reality for Singapore in the next 2 decades as you have imagined it.

    I wonder if you have verified or evaluated the potential renewable energy (RE) options open to Singapore, & other similar regions like Malaysia. Your confidence in solar PV & 'urban wind power" generation being able to feed the sEVs & the other electricity needs for the population of Singapore appear to be in the realm of a "Walter Mitty World" imagination, as your article is meant to be (at least as I understand it).

    Sorry I just came to know of it so my comments are obviously rather late.

    Good luck & cheers.