Wednesday, 13 May 2015

'Made in Singapore' electric taxi charges fast, goes the distance

By Feng Zengkun, Environment Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 May 2015

SINGAPORE has created a fast-charging electric taxi that works well in tropical cities and could help the country to combat climate change.

Conventional electric vehicles take six to eight hours to charge and usually cover up to 160km on a full charge.

But EVA, the taxi designed and built here by TUM Create - a collaboration between Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Germany's Technische Universitat Munchen - has a 200km range and a charging time of just 15 minutes.

"Drivers can go for a toilet or meal break, come back, and their taxi will be recharged," said Mr Raymond Khoo, 29, an NTU researcher on the project.

The taxi's specially designed features - such as an overhead air-conditioning system that cools individual seats, and fans in the seats that wick away heat and moisture - also help to reduce the energy needed to keep passengers comfortable in tropical cities.

The researchers said they decided to focus on electric taxis as taxis "have a far greater impact on the environment compared with private passenger cars".

In Singapore, taxis make up about 3 per cent of the vehicle population, but travel 15 per cent of the total distance covered by all vehicles here, according to the researchers' calculations.

Many two-shift taxis here travel for up to 24 hours every day, covering an average of 520km, they said.

The researchers added that by replacing vehicles that use fossil fuels with electric-powered ones, carbon emissions as well as noise and exhaust pollution can be reduced.

The team is now looking to work with industrial partners to conduct safety tests on the taxi, and to find ways to mass manufacture it for commercial use.

But they acknowledged that there are several obstacles, such as the need for specially designed charging stations for the taxi.

This means that Singapore's more than 70 existing charging stations may need to be retrofitted.

Some people, such as bank analyst Rachel Ng, 25, were also concerned about possible higher fares, if the electric taxis cost more.

Addressing this concern, TUM Create scientific adviser director Markus Lienkamp said: "Electric taxis cost less in the long run compared with petrol-run taxis, as electricity is much cheaper than petrol, and electric engines do not experience wear and tear.

"So there's really no question about it. Electric vehicles are the future."

Additional reporting by Wu Jia Min

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