Author(s): Raghu Gopal
On Tuesday, Singapore launched its first electric car-sharing programme in a bid to reduce the number of cars on its roads.
The service is supported by the government and operated by BlueSG, a unit of Bollore, a French transportation company. Bollore runs similar electric vehicle-sharing plans in other cities, including Bordeaux, Lyon and Paris in France, Indianapolis and Los Angeles in the US and Turin in Italy.
BlueSG's fleet includes two-door hatchbacks powered by lithium-metal polymer batteries, with a range of up to 200 km on a full charge. The service began with 80 vehicles, supported by a network of 32 stations throughout the island. By 2020, the Singaporean government plans to roll out 1,000 electric vehicles and 2,000 charging stations. BlueSG said the service will become the world's second-biggest electric car-sharing project after Paris.
Participants in the initiative can book a BlueSG car on a mobile app. Users pick up the vehicle at a charging point and return it to the station closest to their destination. Customers are charged by the minute, with a minimum of 15 minutes, and have the option of paying with a yearly subscription plan priced at about $0.24 per minute, or at a flat rate of about $0.37 per minute.
The costs of owning a car in Singapore are very high, perhaps the highest in the world. The project is part of the government's plan to highly regulate the number of vehicles on the road by setting an annual growth rate. There's a system in place of bidding for the right to own and use a vehicle for a limited time. In fact, in October 2017, country officials announced that it wouldn't allow any growth in its car population from January 2018.
Singapore is a great testing ground for this electric-car concept. Convincing people to switch to these vehicles can be difficult because of "range anxiety", but Singapore is a small city-state nation with outstanding infrastructure. It has developed a widespread charging network, a highly advanced mobile network, and has a population of extremely tech-savvy users. The country is well equipped to overcome roadblocks to wide adoption of electric cars. In a sign of the overwhelming response to the programme, BlueSG announced that almost 2,000 people had registered for the service ahead of its launch.
We have previously noted that the so-called sharing economy and need for constant connectivity have the potential to disrupt the concept of car ownership in many urban areas. Recently, we shared our expectation that urban dwellers born in developed markets in 2017 will be the last generation to own cars (see CCS Insight Predictions for 2018 and Beyond). We believe the growth of "as a service" business models and advances in autonomous driving and smart infrastructure will combine to make car ownership in cities a thing of the past. Cars will be leased to city authorities, which will bill passengers on a per-ride basis or include access to vehicles in municipal service charges. Singapore is a perfect microcosm for testing such schemes.