In line with a global push towards cleaner mobility, our neighbour Singapore has announced that it will be acquiring only hybrid and electric buses moving forward, reported the Straits Times.

The island nation’s senior minister of state for transport Janil Puthucheary told the parliament that the move is part to the government’s goal of having its fleet of public buses – which currently stands at around 5,400 units – run on cleaner energy by 2040. Naturally, these hybrid (which are likely to be diesel-electric) and fully-electric buses will cost more than conventional diesel-powered ones.

Janil said that Singapore has deployed 50 diesel-electric hybrid buses since last March. “We have also bought 60 fully-electric buses and will be deploying them progressively this year,” he continued, adding that new bus depots will be designed to support electric buses.

Taxi drivers were also encouraged by Janil to switch to electric cabs, which will only be charged the minimum Additional Registration Fee (ARF) of S$5,000 (RM15,000). As of end-January, just 133 out of the 18,526 taxis in operation were electric.

Singapore also plans to phase out vehicles running solely on combustion engines by 2040, which Janil believed is ambitious. “This means that after 2030, we should see no new purchases of internal combustion engined vehicles,” he said. “This will require an extensive transformation of the fleet, significant changes in commuting and consumer behaviour and the development of the necessary supporting infrastructure.”

To support the vast number of road users set to go electric (there are around 900,000 combustion engined vehicles on the roads today, said the Straits Times), the government will work with the private sector to add more charging stations, particularly in public carparks. The network is set to grow to 28,000 stations by 2030, up from just 1,600 currently.

And to hasten the importation of electric vehicles, the government will allow cars using the Japanese CHAdeMO DC fast charging standard, said Janil. Singapore will also ramp up its power generation capacity and reinforce its grid to cope with the increased demand from EV users, on top of applying technologies like smart charging and energy storage solutions to store energy from the grid during off-peak periods.

Tax incentives announced during the tabling of the country’s budget will also kick in next year to spur public demand for EVs and will be valid until 2023; they will cost an estimated S$71 million (RM213.2 million). Existing EV owners will also be exempted from a new annual lump sum tax until the end of 2023. Janil expects EVs “to reach cost parity with internal combustion engine vehicles by the mid-2020s.”

Singapore is also making a concerted effort to develop autonomous vehicle technology, and Janil said that trials will pick up speed. “Today, about 30 AVs are authorised for public road trials,” he said. “We aim to progress to the next stage of trials with pilot deployment in the early 2020s.”

Janil added that more than 20 companies had responded to the country’s call for collaboration last year. “We are currently assessing and looking through their proposals,” he said, adding that Singapore’s Land Transport Authority will work with bus operators and the National Transport Workers’ Union to prepare bus captains for the advent of autonomous buses, with a “skills and training roadmap to be launched by the end of this year.”

He said the roadmap will identify emerging skills and new job roles arising from AV deployment. “We plan to train about 100 bus captains as a start,” he said.