Called City Pals, they will be brought in by Honda, which will set up a club, whose members can rent the cars
Electric cars expected on the roads by June The charging bays for the electric City Pal cars are also automated. After the cars are parked, an electronic 'arm' plugs into the car and charges it. The car can run 130km on one charge, with a top speed of 110km/h -- PHOTO: HONDA

TWO-SEATER electric cars will be on Singapore roads by the middle of this year.

Motorists will be able to rent them to zip around town.

Looking more like a golf cart, the City Pal, as it is called, will be brought in by Japan's Honda Motor. It will have a top speed of 110 kmh and will run 130 km on a single battery charge.

Details such as how many cars will be brought in and where they will be stationed will be released closer to June.

Honda plans to set up a club, whose members will be able to rent the cars by the hour or day, using a personalised identification card, which doubles as a car key.

It plans to install charging bays, mainly in the shopping and office areas downtown, where the cars can be plugged in to recharge their batteries.

Honda said on Monday that it set up a wholly-owned subsidiary here last month with $4 million in capital to carry out research-and-development work on the Intelligent Community Vehicle System or ICVS.

The company - Honda ICVS Singapore - will test the electric-car system and study how feasible it is for full-scale commercial operations here.

Singapore was chosen because land constraints here make the sharing of a common pool of non-polluting vehicles an attractive option, said Honda.

The project also has the support of the Economic Development Board and the Land Transport Authority here.

On the location of the charging bays and cars, the general manager of Asian Honda Motor, Mr Hiroshi Mikajiri, said: "We are looking at places where there is a lot of commuter movement throughout the day, and not just during the morning and evening rush hours.

"But we hope to start the system in at least three locations."

Honda's announcement comes three months after the Government announced road-tax rebates of 10 per cent for hybrid cars and 20 per cent for electric ones, in a move to encourage the use of environment-friendly vehicles here.

Outside of Singapore, Honda has established similar shared electric-car projects - in Tochigi, Japan, in 1998 and at the University of California at Riverside in 1999.

In Tochigi, users check out electric cars and bicycles to get around a 646-ha motor-racing complex.

At the California university, about 200 students and lecturers share 15 electric vehicles when travelling within the campus grounds.