The two cars are first battery-run ones to join mainstream fleet and so are not tax-exempt
All-electric ComfortDelGro cabs hit the roads in trial The two Hyundai Ioniq Electric saloons, which will be on trial for a year, charge fully in just under 30 minutes. PHOTO: COMFORTDELGRO

Taxi giant ComfortDelGro's first two fully electric cabs will start plying today, dovetailing a growing trend among cab operators to steer away from diesel.

The two Hyundai Ioniq Electric saloons will be the first battery-powered vehicles to enter the mainstream taxi fleet. That means the operator pays full taxes for them, unlike a fleet of tax-exempt BYD taxis plying the roads here under a research grant.

Ms Tammy Tan, spokesman for ComfortDelGro, said the two electric Hyundais will be on a year-long trial. Like all previous trials, the operator may buy more if results prove favourable

Ms Tan said: "Unlike existing electric taxis in Singapore that take a couple of hours to charge, this electric Ioniq taxi - the first of its kind here - charges fully in just under 30 minutes."

She said the fast-charging is via a direct-current station, approved by the Energy Market Authority, located at Hyundai agent Komoco Motors' premises in Alexandra Road.

The station is open to the cabbies round the clock.

"A fully-charged electric Ioniq taxi travels more than 200km, but the cost of charging it is only one-third of the cost of diesel for the same distance travelled," Ms Tan noted.

The Ioniq Electric comes with advanced technologies such as energy recuperation and lane-keeping assist system, as well as autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control and blind-spot detection.

ComfortDelGro's foray follows a growing trend towards electrification. According to Land Transport Authority figures, there were 4,159 petrol-electric hybrid taxis on the road as at the end of last month. These cabs now account for 20 per cent of Singapore's taxi fleet of around 21,000.

In comparison, the penetration rate for passenger cars is far lower, with less than 4 per cent of the population being partly or fully electric.

Asian Clean Fuels Association director Clarence Woo is cheered by the relatively high adoption rate among taxi operators, which have traditionally been diesel-reliant.

"This is good news. Generally speaking, diesel emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides are higher than (those of ) petrol and more so against hybrids. So we can see immediate and prevalent improvement in on-road pollutant readings.

"As explained before, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has stated that particulate matter and diesel emissions are both carcinogenic. So this is another plus point."

Meanwhile, Trans-Cab, the second-largest cab operator here, has ordered its first fleet of petrol-electric Toyota Prius taxis.

Trans-Cab general manager Jasmine Tan said the order comprises 500 vehicles, which will start plying from October.

Observers said since taxis clock at least three times as many kilometres as the average family car, the benefit of converting them to less pollutive models is multiplied.

Just five years ago, there were only 662 hybrid cabs here, which made up 2.4 per cent of the taxi population.

Mr Joe Nguyen, 45, an early adopter of electric cars here, said: "This move makes complete sense as EVs are cheaper to run, and there are lower maintenance costs associated with EVs."

The senior vice-president of an Internet research firm, who owns the first Tesla here, added: "But obviously, the operator will have to invest in staff and systems to support EV systems likebatteries and electric motors."