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All Systems Go For Electric Vehicles – What Roadblocks Exist For Car Rental Companies?

Apr 16,2021

We are hit with an electric revolution where countries globally are encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) to reduce carbon emissions. However, this initiative will work if the imperative incentives are implemented to promote the widespread use of EVs. 

 

The increase in oil prices, greater accessibility and affordability of EVs have led to its wider appeal. It is aimed that by 2040, Singapore would be phasing out the use of petrol vehicles. But till then, there are some hurdles that it has to jump over before this dream can come into fruition. 

 

In addition to our previous article “Will Car Rental Companies Utilize Electric Vehicles?”, where we discussed the current trend towards the electric revolution in the transport industry, this article continues to elaborate on the challenges faced by car rental customers and companies alike in adapting and adopting this revolutionary change in the way we commute. 

 

Growing Demand for EVs

The supply of EV cars, though limited, is gaining traction. In recent years, other than Tesla, leading the EV supply, car manufacturers like Porsche, Nissan and Hyundai have started to invest in R&D efforts to supply car owners and car rental companies with their own models of EVs. With each vehicle, comes differences in their range (how long the vehicle can travel on full charge) and power consumption. These vehicles are also not cheap, ranging from S$100,000 – S$160,000 for mass market models. Higher-end models can even cost up to S$500,000! For car rental companies wanting to jump on the bandwagon of supplying EVs to customers, this is big news! On one hand, the wider range of EVs to choose from may seem exciting, while on the other hand, managing costs, customer’s demand and confidence on these new product offerings can be an arduous early adopter issue to have. These are some of the additional challenges that car rental companies need to deliberate about before starting to roll out EVs for rent. 

 

Challenges

Charging Infrastructure 

Announced in the Budget 2020, the state has set out to accomplish the lofty goal of installing 60,000 charging pods, from the current 1,600 islandwide, by 2030. To meet this formidable but necessary target, the relevant infrastructure is needed to handle the growing demands of owning and using EVs in Singapore. Currently, besides the charging pods being placed in public areas, there is little infrastructure being built to serve the needs of EV drivers. For example, there are few charging stations for residents who are staying in private property (landed and condominiums), and this hinders them from being motivated to utilize EVs. Moreover, it is up to the management of the private property to allow for the installation of EV charging points, creating additional resistance to the uptake of EVs. To attain their ambitions electric goals, it is important for these changes to happen as the middle and higher income groups are more likely to be part of the early adopters of the EV revolution, especially since EVs are relatively more expensive than their petrol counterparts. As such, it is critical to rope in the support of both private and public partners in allowing for a more seamless transition of attaining a grand total of 60,000 charging pods in the next decade and having two-thirds of the charging pods in public spaces, while the remaining in private spaces. With these efforts, new and existing condominiums are needed to set aside existing or create new spaces for the installation of charging points. 

 

Additionally, car rental companies also find difficulties in encouraging customers to utilize EVs as a long term car rental option without having the sufficient charging points to upkeep the EVs.  For example, the construction of substations and switch rooms, especially in public spaces like multi-storey car parks of HDBs, will be essential to encourage the use of EVs and to supplement the growing demands of handling the provision of huge loads of multi-megawatt power transmission between the power source to the EVs. 

 

The Use of Power

Power coming from the generators is in AC, while power that is stored in the batteries of 

For AC charging, the electricity converter is built in the car, converting AC to DC, and powering the batteries. DC chargers direct current to the car batteries itself, without having to the onboard charger to convert it. However, with the different charging systems and capabilities of different cars (EVs, hybrids etc.), it poses issues for car rental companies in investing in the needed technology to cope with their own fleet of rental cars that consist of both petrol, hybrid and EVs alike. 

 

Duration of Charging EVs

Moreover, re-fuelling petrol vehicles from an empty to full tank takes a maximum of 10 minutes; and you can leave the petrol kiosk in a maximum of 20 minutes, with a pack of snacks and a drink to go. For electric cars, there are direct charging pods fast-chargers that could charge a car in about 40 minutes to an hour for it to be fully charged. Since 2019, there has been huge efforts to ramp up research and development on the use of Alternative Current (AC) or Direct Current (DC) chargers, with the latter having the capabilities for a more efficient charge. 

 

With that said, EVs are more efficient than their gasoline counterparts, with EVs only losing 15-20% of energy as compared to 65-75% for gasoline-powered vehicles, and once the infrastructure allows, this change would be one that is welcomed with open arms. 

 

Internationalizing the EV Phenomenon

While fears of the EVs not being able to travel huge distances without stopping for multiple charges has been debunked, the transition from a nation running on petroleum to an electric one should be a global phenomenon. Neighbouring countries need to be on board. While there are electric charging pods in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, these fears of having a tow truck may still linger in the minds of travellers as the country opens up for international travel, after travel bubbles have been implemented with more and more countries in the region. 

 

Final Thoughts for Car Rental Companies

For car rental companies to utilize EVs, various partners have to work hand in hand in order to drive up the market of EVs, and to allow for customers and companies alike to adopt the use of EVs. In doing so, with more people renting and using vehicles on an ad-hoc basis, commuting using the public transport system while with the occasional use of rental vehicles, it helps to reduce the dependency on private transport, and encourages the use of EVs over petroleum-fuelled vehicles. As such, the carbon footprint that commuting has on the environment would decrease, and tackling the serious issue of congestion by reducing the cars on the road.