Musk repeats Singapore criticism

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has defended his comments, saying Singapore is not supportive of electric vehicles despite its construction of a dedicated, artificial “city” to develop self-driving cars. 

“Singapore is a very prosperous city and yet has very few electric cars,” Musk tweeted after the Straits Times’ transport correspondent Christopher Tan wrote a piece asking the battery pioneer to get off his “high horse”. 

Last week Musk was asked why his electric vehicles were unavailable in Singapore. 

“We tried, but Singapore govt is not supportive of electric vehicles,” Musk tweeted on May 26.

In response, Tan said Singapore granted owners up to U$15,000 in tax breaks, and drivers would dodge more than US$7,500 in petrol duty over 10 years. Tan also argued that Teslas should be more affordable.

Musk said that Singapore could generate most of its electricity through solar energy. “No more need to import fossil fuels for electricity, which is a strategic vulnerability,” Musk tweeted.

Singapore controls vehicle numbers through a system of bidding for permits to use a vehicle for a limited number of years.

An unremarkable car in Singapore normally costs four times its price in the US.

‘Fake’ city 

Singapore cannot be accused of dragging its feet on the development of self-driving vehicles, which would also be battery-powered. 

The Lion City opened a model two-hectare town in November with intersections, traffic lights, bus stops, pedestrian crossings and a small hill to check how vehicles perform when they cannot see directly ahead. 

Mock buildings replicate the interference of tall buildings and a rain machine creates fake equatorial storms. 

Seven 360-degree cameras stream video to the Land Transport Authority and the vehicles themselves collect data.

Singapore is building a database on the challenges and solutions that would allow the technology to be introduced safely.

“We’re probably the only country that’s looking at this in such a proactive and systematic way,” said Lee Chuan Teck, formerly of the Ministry of Transport. “What we’re looking at is actually deploying regulations.”

Lee said draft regulations for autonomous vehicles were expected this year.

More than 10 companies were testing vehicles, said Nanyang Technological University’s Future Mobility Solutions chief Niels de Boer. Two buses from Volvo would join them early next year with more coming, he added.

Nanyang is testing 15 minibuses built by France’s Navya, operated using autonomous software or manually with a handset.

The buses’ seven-hour batteries are reportedly half as efficient when the air-conditioning is on full. 


Singapore encourages public transport use. Picture credit: Wikimedia