Encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles in Singapore

Smart charging apps for electric vehicles (EVs) and a suite of regulatory and market measures to encourage their adoption – these were some of the ground-breaking ideas at a recent challenge to encourage adoption of these green vehicles.

Earlier this year, the NUS College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS) had launched its inaugural Case Competition – “Encouraging EV ownership in Singapore”. Conceptualised by the Dean's Offices at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Faculty of Science, the CHS Case Competition saw over 137 teams vying to come up with the best solutions for the finals held in late September.

It is a pertinent topic, with Singapore facing a pressing need to adopt more EVs. The island state emitted an estimated 52 million tons of CO2 in 2018, of which 12.4 per cent came from transport. Part of the nation’s mitigation efforts include switching to cleaner-energy vehicles. Yet, EVs still form less than 0.2 per cent of Singapore’s vehicle population.

“The NUS-CHS Case Competition is conceived as such a vessel to allow students to form teams of members with different expertise to find solutions to real-world problems that determine the future of Singapore, such as the city’s goal of transitioning into electricity-powered vehicles,” shared Prof Robbie Goh, immediate past CHS Co-Dean.

Open to all NUS students, the Competition saw participants tackle the problem from a multitude of angles, including technical innovation, regulation, cost, and consumer education, charging behaviour, mindset change, acceptance, and willingness to pay.

Three submissions, in particular, caught the judges’ eyes.

Making EV charging effortless

A submission from Team Lorax provided a two-pronged solution, an integrated EV charging app and a detailed consumer education campaign. These address what they have identified as the three main barriers to EV adoption: a lack of charging infrastructure and range anxiety; consumers' unfamiliarity with EVs; and the high cost of EVs compared to its internal combustion engine counterparts.

The app, which they are naming “EVolve", will make EV charging effortless, while the rEV Up consumer education campaign will establish an EV experiential centre, partner car retailers to advocate for EVs, and sustain change into the future by collaborating with driving schools.

Team Lorax won the top prize for their multifaceted approach. The team is currently exploring collaborations with the competition partners including KPMG Singapore and the Land Transport Authority.

Harnessing the power of regulatory and market measures

The second prize went to EVgineers. The team assessed that the problem lay in the loose definition of EVs, a lack of clarity of government support measures post-2023, and a lack of synergy with private businesses to support the government's effort. With that, it proposed a suite of regulatory and market measures: further stratification of Vehicle Emission Scheme rebate amounts, implementing a hard quota for EV Certificates of Entitlement, and subsidising solar-panel and EV charger installations for private home owners.

The team estimates that their measures will increase the number of EVs in Singapore by 300 per cent by 2030, compared with current numbers. Most of the team’s strategy is cost-free, or benchmarked against current government measures, it adds.

An integrated smart charging app

Like Team Lorax, the third-prize winner Team BESties identified the EV charging process as a major pain point.

Team BESties also went the technological way to solve this problem. Its smart charging app, rEV-up, will feature a roaming agreement between EV charging providers, and facilitate collaboration among EV market players. The integrated app will make it more convenient and hassle-free for the user to locate a charging point, along with a suite of other features including an integrated map of charging stations, multiple filter options, smart charging monitoring, reservation of lots, and multi-modal payment options.

Ultimately, the key objective of rEV-up is to provide a seamless charging experience for EV drivers, Team BESties says.

Providing mentorship and guidance

The top teams had emerged from a competitive field of 37 innovative projects. Leading up to the finals in late September, the participants were mentored over two mid-term workshops by faculty members from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Engineering and NUS Business School. Students were guided on the engineering and design of EVs, how to communicate effectively, and how to write a compelling case.

Just like with real-world projects, participants were able to add as many team members as needed to address aspects of the project where existing members may not have the domain knowledge. The average team size was five and the largest team in the final round had seven members.

The interdisciplinary approach of the Competition was clearly seen in the formation of the participating teams. The team members of the three top-prize winners (Teams Lorax, EVgineers, and Team BESties) hailed from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering, Yale-NUS College and NUS Business School.

“Today at the NUS CHS Case Competition, we witnessed once again how our students at NUS constantly push boundaries in tackling real-life challenges through innovation,” said Prof Sun Yeneng, CHS Co-Dean and Dean of FOS, at the finals of the Case Competition.

“This is the spirit of CHS, where our students learn and are trained to tap on multiple streams of knowledge, from both of the scientific and humanities disciplines and integrate them in their problem-solving.”

Read about the CHS Case Competition finals here.