The electric vehicle trial is expected to be plugged in by June, after a delay of about a year
Electric vehicle trial set to start in June Of the five Mitsubishi i-MiEV cars that have been delivered to Singapore, two – owned by the the Ministry of Manpower – have been registered for use. The i-MiEVs assigned for the trial cost around $90,000 each

THE electric vehicle trial is expected to be plugged in by June, after a delay of about a year.

But the initial fleet of battery-powered cars may be far smaller than planned because of supply disruptions in Japan.

The first fleet of five Mitsubishi i-MiEVs has been delivered to Singapore, a spokesman for the Energy Market Authority (EMA) told The Straits Times.

The battery-powered cars are part of a $20 million trial announced by the EMA in 2009 to test the durability and viability of electric vehicles in a tropical city.

The trial is open only to institutions, government bodies and corporations.

Of the five cars, two - owned by the the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) - have been registered for use.

Ms Low Peck Kem, divisional director of MOM's national human resources division, said the ministry was invited to take part in the electric-vehicle trial. The ministry agreed as the cars would help 'in our efforts in environmental protection', she added.

The two i-MiEVs will be used mainly for site inspections, she said. Although they have been registered for a number of weeks now, they will not be put to use until June, when the charging points are up.

Under initial plans announced in 2009, 50 i-MiEVs were expected to be delivered to Singapore this year. But the figure was later halved to 25 for unknown reasons.

The Straits Times understands that only 10 might be available this year - five have arrived.

The EMA spokesman said: 'Delivery of the next batch has yet to be confirmed in the light of production delays in Japan arising from the recent earthquake.'

Another reason, sources said, was that parties keen to buy the cars are waiting for the charging infrastructure to be up before ordering them.

One company, vehicle rental firm Smart Automobiles, has changed its mind about buying electric cars for its fleet.

'It has taken too long to happen,' said Smart managing director Johnny Harjantho. 'Customers who were keen to rent these cars have lost interest.'

At the moment, buyers have only one choice: the i-MiEV. Other car-makers with electric models have yet to import them, although Renault is expected to do so by the end of the year or early next year.

The lithium-powered i-MiEV hits 100kmh in about nine seconds and has a top speed of 140kmh. Under ideal conditions, it has a range of 160km between charges.

German components maker Bosch, which clinched the deal to set up the charging network, said it is ready to roll out 25 stations by next month.

The stations will charge a vehicle fully within eight hours. There will also be a quick charging station which gives a full charge in 45 minutes. But as of last week, none of the stations had been installed. The company would not say more.

The EMA spokesman, responding to queries from The Straits Times, said preparations were under way for the first batch of six charging stations to be set up by June.

Singapore-based Greenlots, an electric vehicle charging systems company, is supplying Bosch with the tamper- and weather-proof chargers - which are made completely here.

The chargers incorporate smart features, such as controlling power supply to prevent brown-outs in the building where the chargers are installed; and storing usage history.

Mr Oliver Risse, managing director of the three-year-old company, said each charger costs around $4,000 to $5,000.

Besides the electric vehicle trial, he said several property developers - including Australia's Lend Lease and Singapore's CDL Group - are also in talks with Greenlots to install about 100 chargers in 40 to 50 buildings here.

One of the biggest road humps to ready adoption of this greener form of mobility is cost, observers said.

Despite being exempt from taxes and the certificate of entitlement scheme, the i-MiEVs assigned for the EMA-led trial cost around $90,000 each - approximately the cost of a Toyota Corolla sedan, a substantially bigger car.

If an individual were to buy one with the existing green vehicle rebate accorded to eco-friendly vehicles such as compressed natural gas and hybrid cars, it would easily cost more than twice that.

Tesla of America, which had hoped to be part of the test-bed, packed up and left Singapore in February after it failed to secure tax exemption for its cars.