Wednesday 9 March 2016

Tesla electric car slapped with carbon tax surcharge in Singapore

Tesla boss calls PM Lee over CO2 surcharge levied on first Model S in Singapore
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 8 Mar 2016

Tesla boss Elon Musk has contacted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the case of an electric Model S car that was given a $15,000 carbon tax surcharge in Singapore.

In a tweet last Friday evening, Mr Musk said he had spoken to PM Lee, and "he said he would investigate the situation".

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office yesterday confirmed the conversation took place, and said various agencies were looking into it.

She added that it was too early to say how things will pan out.

During his trip to the US early last month, Mr Lee met leading tech honchos, including Mr Musk.

He wrote in a Facebook post: "We talked about new technologies and global trends, and Singapore's Smart Nation ideas. Elon Musk gave me a brief but exhilarating ride in the Tesla Model S P90D."

The P90D is a high-performance variant of the electric Model S, and is similar to the car that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) imposed a $15,000 surcharge on, based on its performance in a carbon emissions test. It is the first electric car here to face the surcharge.

Various other electric or part-electric cars here are accorded tax rebates of up to $30,000.

Several countries also consider the Tesla Model S as environmentally-friendly, and grant its buyers various forms of tax breaks.

The owner of the Singapore car, Mr Joe Nguyen, had posted online about the carbon surcharge, as well as the length of time - seven months - it took for the vehicle to be approved and registered.

Mr Nguyen, 44, a senior vice-president at an Internet research firm, said "it's awesome" that Mr Musk had contacted PM Lee.

"I guess he met the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago," he said. "Hopefully, something good comes out of it."

Tesla owner Joe Nguyen opens up about his ordeal
44-year-old Joe Nguyen had to wait 7 months and pay a $15,000 surcharge to get his hands on the wheel of his Tesla Model S. He paid close to $400,000 for the electric car which gets tax breaks in countries like Britain, United States and Hong Kong. With recent news of Tesla CEO Elon Musk contacting PM Lee, does Joe expect to get his $15,000 back?
Posted by RazorTV on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Member of Parliament Ong Teng Koon, who made a case for electric vehicles in Parliament in January, said given the need to reduce carbon emissions, Singapore should put greater focus on electric vehicles, since these vehicles typically have lower CO2 emissions (measured at the power station) than their conventional counterparts.

"From the Government's perspective, this is a rare carbon emissions reduction policy where the abatement cost would be voluntarily borne by consumers... rather than being paid for by the Government."

The LTA and Transport Ministry were not available for comment yesterday.

* LTA reviewing Tesla case
It is working with company's engineers to see if electric car issued carbon surcharge was tested correctly
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Mar 2016

While confirming that a brand new Tesla Model S would have qualified for a "green" rebate, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said it was re-examining the case of a used electric car that was issued a $15,000 carbon surcharge.

The car - the first and only Tesla Model S here - was imported by Mr Joe Nguyen, a 44-year-old senior vice-president with an Internet research firm.

The LTA yesterday said that while all imported used cars must be tested individually, it is working with Tesla engineers to see if the Model S - which qualifies for tax breaks in most countries - was tested correctly in the first place.

The latest turn of events came just days after Tesla boss Elon Musk called Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after news of the Model S' seemingly anomalous surcharge reached him.

The Prime Minister's Office told The Straits Times that various agencies are looking into the case.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been in discussion with Tesla on the recent case of an imported used Tesla Model...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The car was first registered in Hong Kong in 2014, and had clocked about 1,000km before it was shipped here.

The LTA said tests conducted by the Vicom Emission Test Laboratory showed the car had a power consumption of 444 watt-hour/km.

After factoring in carbon dioxide emissions of 0.5g/watt-hour at the power plants, the car's emission was deemed to be 222g/km. This puts it in the $15,000 surcharge band under the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS).

Tesla Motors has informed the LTA that the Model S' energy consumption was rated at 181 watt-hour/km when it left the Tesla factory on June 28, 2014.

A brand-new Model S would have qualified for a $30,000 CEVS rebate, the LTA noted.

But Mr Nguyen's car was not new. All imported used cars have to be tested individually since their efficiency can vary, depending on "how they were maintained".

The LTA said it "would not know how much the car's condition might have deteriorated" otherwise.

"We cannot make exceptions as it would not be fair to other car owners," it added.

A brand new Tesla Model S would have qualified for a $30,000 rebate, the LTA said. Mr Joe Nguyen's car was used and had clocked about 1,000km before it was shipped here.
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tesla spokesman Atsuko Doi said the emission of a new Model S is less than half that of a Mercedes-Benz S500L, which produces around 200g/km of carbon dioxide.

If oil extraction, distribution and refining were included, the S500L's carbon emission would be almost three times the Tesla's.

Ms Doi said the company is in discussions with the LTA "to ensure a proper understanding of these issues, and to make sure that they are correctly testing our customer's Model S".

She added: "We are confident that this situation will be resolved soon."

Carmaker eyeing Singapore re-entry
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Mar 2016

Tesla wants to re-enter the Singapore market, after leaving in a huff in 2011 without selling a single car.

Despite the recent brouhaha over a self-imported Model S which was slapped with a $15,000 carbon surcharge, the California-based electric carmaker feels Singapore "could be a great market".

In response to e-mail queries sent to chief executive Elon Musk - who called Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last week over a controversial carbon surcharge imposed on the solitary Model S - a Tesla spokesman said: "We are already in close contact with the Land Transport Authority and working with them to bring Tesla vehicles to Singapore."

In February 2011, Tesla packed up and left - just six months after setting up an office at Suntec to market its battery-powered cars. The Straits Times understands that the company pulled out because it failed to secure tax incentives, making them commercially unviable.

The two-seater Roadster, which was Tesla's only model back then, would have cost about $500,000 without the incentives.

That would have made the car - with the body and chassis of a Lotus Elise - as costly as a Porsche 911 S.

But had the tax break been granted, the car - which is no longer produced - would have cost around $250,000 or less.

The Economic Development Board, which was in charge of approving the tax break that was tied to a test-bedding project, said Tesla had not met "technical requirements".

With the new Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) in place, Tesla reckons that it is worth giving Singapore a second shot. But it would not say when it will return.

In addition to the Model S, Tesla recently released a crossover with falcon-winged doors called Model X. The company is also rolling out software updates that allow its cars to be operated semi-autonomously.

If the cars qualify for the top-tier CEVS rebate of $30,000, retail prices are likely to range from $300,000 to $450,000.

LTA on Tesla: CO2 emissions for electric cars start at power grid
The LTA's clarification came after a consumer detailed the months-long journey of getting his Tesla Model S electric car on Singapore's roads.
Channel NewsAsia, 4 Mar 2016

All used cars imported into Singapore will have to undergo exhaust emissions and fuel efficiency tests, and for electric cars, this means having the car's electricity generation process assessed for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The authority was responding to Channel NewsAsia's questions after a local consumer, Mr Joe Nguyen, was reported to have spent months trying to get a licence for his Tesla Model S car to be driven on local roads. Additionally, he was not given the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) rebate of S$15,000 but was charged S$15,000 tax for having a non-fuel-efficient car instead.

Mr Nguyen said in the Stuff report on Tuesday (Mar 1): "I don't get it, there are no emissions. Then they send out the results from VICOM, stating that the car was consuming 444 watt hour per kilometre (Wh/km). These are not specs that I have seen on Tesla's website, or anywhere else for that matter. And then underneath it, there's a conversion to CO2 emission."

Like fuel-powered vehicles, there are also differing types of Electric Vehicles.Our local regulations require every...
Posted by Land Transport Authority – We Keep Your World Moving on Saturday, March 5, 2016

A LTA spokesperson explained that for Mr Nguyen's case, the car was tested under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) R101 standards. The result was that the electric energy consumption of his imported used Tesla car was 444Wh/km, she said.

"As for all electric vehicles, a grid emission factor of 0.5 g CO2/Wh was also applied to the electric energy consumption. This is to account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process, even if there are no tail-pipe emissions. The equivalent CO2 emission of Mr Nguyen’s car was 222g/km, which is in the CEVS surcharge band," the spokesperson added.

Under the revised CEVS, Mr Nguyen's Tesla falls in the C3 band, which accounts for cars with 216 to 230 g/km, and carries with it a S$15,000 surcharge.

She added that the Tesla is not the first fully electric car where grid emission factor was applied. A Peugeot Ion, for instance, was registered in July 2014 and received the maximum CEVS rebates, the spokesperson said.

LTA did acknowledge the delays Mr Nguyen faced during the testing process at VICOM Emission Test Laboratory. He had told Stuff that he experienced a two-month "ordeal" getting his car assessed.

"This is the first time a Tesla Model S has been tested for emissions," the spokesperson said.

Electric car Tesla slapped with $15,000 tax surcharge
Electric car is the first tailpipe emission-free vehicle to be penalised thus in Singapore
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, 5 Mar 2016

An electric car which attracts tax breaks in several countries has been slapped with a tax surcharge in Singapore.

The Model S - a sedan made by California-based Tesla Motors - is the first tailpipe emission-free car to be penalised this way here.

Mr Joe Nguyen, 44, registered a used Model S he sourced from Hong Kong just before Chinese New Year. He was shocked that the car - for which he paid close to $400,000 - was liable for a $15,000 carbon surcharge.

"Honestly, it's stupid," said the senior vice-president with an Internet research firm. "I went back to them (Land Transport Authority), and they cited a UN emission test regulation. They also factored in carbon emissions at the power station. We don't apply a carbon penalty to people charging their iPhones, do we?"

In response to queries, an LTA spokesman said: "Based on tests conducted under the UNECE R101 standards, the electric energy consumption of his imported used Tesla car was 444 watt-hour/km."

To "account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process", the spokesman said, "a grid emission factor of 0.5g/watt-hour was also applied to the electric energy consumption".

From this, it was determined that Mr Nguyen's Tesla produced 222g/km of CO2, putting it within the $15,000 surcharge band under Singapore's Carbon Emission- based Vehicle Scheme. The LTA applied this grid factor once previously to an electric Peugeot Ion (a subcompact hatchback), and it was granted a carbon rebate of $20,000.

The BMW i3 electric hatchback and i8 plug-in hybrid both qualify for a $30,000 carbon rebate.

One man recounts how he spent nearly a year trying to bring a Tesla into Singapore
Posted by Stuff Singapore on Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Mr Nguyen, married with three sons, said he paid the surcharge because he "didn't want to wait any longer". It had taken him more than half a year from the time he imported the car last July to get it approved and registered for use on the road.

He had to shuttle between LTA, the Energy Market Authority and vehicle inspection centre Vicom in the process. Before the car was approved, he had to give an undertaking that he would recharge it only at his home - a cluster housing.

On the long process, LTA said "this is the first time a Tesla Model S has been tested for emissions".

The Model S is granted tax breaks in several countries. In Britain, buyers get a £4,500 (S$8,800) grant, and in the United States, they get a US$7,500 (S$10,400) income tax credit. Hong Kong waives registration tax for electric cars, which can be as high as 115 per cent of value. In Norway, a Model S gets a tax exemption of around US$135,000.

Mr Nguyen has posted an "open letter" online outlining his difficulty in registering the Tesla as well as his beef over the tax surcharge.

"I've given up on getting the money back," he told The Straits Times. "I just want LTA to improve. There is a lot of interest in the Model S."

Commenting on the case, Nanyang Business School adjunct associate professor Zafar Momin said: "Given Singapore's land size, great infrastructure and commitment to sustainability, we would not only have been the perfect test bed for electric vehicles (EVs), but also an ideal market for their wider application and usage.

While we have initiatives and incentives for EVs, we may already have missed the big opportunity to be a leader in EVs as a nation. The Tesla importation case is perhaps indicative of why we may have missed the opportunity."

Razor Multimedia Journalist Olivia Chang finds out what it's like to experience the sleek Tesla Model S in an exclusive...
Posted by RazorTV on Wednesday, March 9, 2016

LTA should stand firm on Tesla case

I urge the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to stand firm while under pressure from car manufacturer Tesla Motors ("LTA reviewing Tesla case"; yesterday).

A car that is supposed to consume 181 watt-hour/km turns out to actually consume 444.

Kudos to the LTA for doing its own investigations.

I know most countries give generous tax breaks on Tesla cars, but there have also been many people in the United States who question if it is really fair for the government to subsidise rich people's toys and conspicuous consumption. It is not Singapore's policy to provide government "welfare" to billionaires.

Tesla's business model does not merit tax breaks, considering Singapore's car-lite endeavour ("Carmaker eyeing S'pore re-entry"; yesterday).

Tesla is not the solution to Singapore's traffic issues ("Right move to tax 'performance' cars" by Mr Sum Kam Weng ; Wednesday).

Who needs a car here that can go 210kmh (the top speed of the Model S) when the maximum speed limit here is 90kmh?

Many surveys in Norway and Germany have concluded that over their entire lifespan, from production to decommissioning, most electric vehicles pollute more than ordinary family cars running on petrol or diesel.

That is if the power is generated from fossil fuels, as is the case in Singapore.

The ideal car for city driving has already been invented: It is the small hybrid car, such as the Toyota Prius C, that does not draw power from the grid but instead recycles energy collected while decelerating.

Morten Strange
ST Forum, 12 Mar 2016

Tesla v LTA debate throws up some hard questions

By Jessica Cheam, Published The Straits Times, 18 Mar 2016

The latest story to propel Singapore into the global limelight was the curious incident of a Tesla car and the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Tesla Motors is an American premium electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer which became well-known in Singapore after news broke earlier this month of how the first Tesla EV imported into Singapore by 44-year-old Joe Nguyen attracted a $15,000 penalty from LTA.

The disgruntled Mr Nguyen - who reportedly paid $400,000 to get his Tesla Model S on the road - detailed the arduous seven-month-long process on a blog. His main grouse: Why did LTA penalise his EV, which has no tailpipe emissions, when so many other jurisdictions across the world offer rebates for similar vehicles?

The widely reported incident even prompted a call from Tesla's chief executive, Mr Elon Musk - a visionary tech entrepreneur who is also behind aerospace firm SpaceX - to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Both of them had met during PM Lee's trip to the US last month.

LTA is now reportedly working with Tesla engineers to assess if its test on the EV was conducted correctly.

The story has since generated a slew of comments and questions, which include: Is LTA's method of testing EVs and including grid emissions correct? LTA derived the penalty it charged Mr Nguyen by calculating the emissions of the EV from a power consumption test and from the electricity used to charge it using the national grid.

Others have asked if the Tesla EV should enjoy tax rebates when it's a high-performance car and whether Singapore should be embracing EVs?

The Land Transport Authority's handling of the Tesla incident has exposed a bigger issue - Singapore's lack of knowledge...
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, March 17, 2016

To answer these questions, we need to look at the facts.

After remaining in relative obscurity for a century, EVs have soared in popularity in the past decade due to a combination of lower technology costs and increased government focus on cutting emissions and pollution.

Unlike conventional cars that run on internal combustion engines, EVs operate using batteries that are charged and have no tailpipe emissions. They help improve energy security by cutting reliance on transport fuels, and are a boon for cities, such as Beijing, that are plagued by smog since they do not emit any particulate matter.

The drawbacks of EVs, however, include their limited driving range and expensive batteries, which critics say make their manufacturing process more resource-intensive. Despite this, multiple studies conducted in recent years that have compared the life-cycle environmental footprints of petrol cars versus those of EVs have generally shown that the latter perform better.

That is also why governments across the world are encouraging EV adoption by offering incentives to consumers. They view EVs - combined with renewable energy - as a key part of their energy strategy to slash carbon emissions, which will help them meet the commitments pledged under the recent Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

Mr Musk has publicly acknowledged that the world doesn't need more high- performance cars, but Tesla's strategy is to enter the high-end market - where customers can pay a premium - and use the revenue to drive down costs with each successive model so that EVs can some day become an affordable mass market option.

Ultimately, the biggest factor at play when determining if an EV has lower emissions is actually grid power, that is, how a country generates its electricity.

EVs that operate in a country powered by clean gas or renewables fare much better than, say, in a country powered mainly by coal. For instance, a 2013 study on "wells to wheels" emissions by a research group Shrink That Footprint found that Paraguay is the greenest place to make and drive an EV, whereas in India and China, where power generation is heavily coal-based, EVs have similar emissions as those of vehicles that use petrol.

In this sense, it is not wrong for LTA to consider grid emissions - the crucial thing is how it applies this calculation, whether it is applied fairly to all cars, and for it to provide transparency on its testing methodologies.

It should also allow some flexibility to cater for situations where, say, a car is charged via solar-generated electricity - not a remote idea, given the recent uptake of solar energy in Singapore.

LTA's handling of this incident has also exposed a bigger issue - Singapore's lack of knowledge and experience in EV technology.

For far too long, Singapore has ignored and lagged behind in the EV market and it does so to its own detriment.

Member of Parliament Ong Teng Koon noted in Parliament in January that EVs provide a rare opportunity in which "the (carbon) abatement cost would be voluntarily borne by consumers... rather than being paid for by the government".

Already, Bloomberg New Energy Finance is predicting that the EV revolution could be more dramatic than governments and oil companies have yet realised. It published a study last month which estimated that by the 2020s, EVs will become a more economic option than petrol or diesel cars in most countries. It forecasts that sales of EVs globally will hit 41 million by 2040, almost 90 times the equivalent figure for last year, when EV sales are estimated to have been 462,000, some 60 per cent up on 2014.

This would have implications beyond the car market since such an increase in the demand for EVs will displace the use of crude oil and shift energy demand to electricity generation.

Governments will need to find ways to ensure their grids are prepared for a growing fleet of cars that will now be charged at home, while simultaneously integrating large amounts of renewable energy.

It is unclear if Singapore is prepared for this reality. It launched an EV test bed in 2011 but that remains in testing stage after five years and Singapore still has no EV infrastructure to speak of.

Some industry observers have suggested that Singapore has deliberately chosen to ignore EV technology because it plays host to several large oil refineries, which depend on petrol car owners as a key source of revenue. If that is true, then it seems to be a short-sighted decision. But perhaps, all this won't matter in the end. For all the brouhaha over EVs, the larger vision for the country is to be a "car-lite" nation, as outlined by PM Lee in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint last year.

Singapore's top priority should be to reduce the private car population as much as possible by making public transport affordable, reliable and accessible across the country. And where there is a need to use private cars, motorists should be encouraged to use the most efficient cars available, and share them as much as possible too.

I don't think anyone could argue with that.

The writer is editor of Eco-Business, an Asia-Pacific sustainable business online publication. This is a monthly column on the environment.

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