Two universities have worked together to develop an electric taxi that works well in tropical cities and could help the country to combat climate change
Five features of the 'made in Singapore' electric taxi EVA, believed to be the world's first electric taxi designed in a collaboration between NTU and Germany’s Technische Universität München, is said to be able to go some 200km on a single 15-minute charge. -- PHOTO: TUM CREATE

SINGAPORE - Two universities have worked together to develop an electric taxi that works well in tropical cities and could help the country to combat climate change. It was designed and built by TUM Create, a collaboration between Nanyang Technological University and Germany's Technische Universitat Munchen.

Here are five unique features of the vehicle known as EVA.

1. Fast charging

Conventional electric vehicles take six to eight hours to charge and usually cover up to 160km on a full charge. But EVA has a 200km range and takes just 15 minutes to charge

For a Toyota Corolla Altis with a full tank of petrol, it can cover about 550km.

2. Energy-efficient

The taxi has an overhead air-conditioning system that cools individual seats, so air-conditioning for unoccupied zones can be switched off to reduce energy wastage. It also has fans in the seats that wick away heat and moisture, thus reducing the reliance on air-conditioning.

3. Top speed

It can travel at up to 111 km/h. The speed limit on Singapore's highways is 90km/h. So these small babies can move pretty quickly.

4. Lightweight car body

The taxi's skeleton is made entirely of carbon fibre, which is five times as strong as steel, two times as stiff, yet weighs about two-thirds less. It is also used on planes and other vehicles such as Formula One sports cars.

By using the lightweight but super strong material, the electric taxi could weigh 150kg lighter than other vehicles of the same size. But the design means that it will not compromise on strength or durability.

5. Child seats

Most parents do not bring their own child seats when travelling in taxis with their young ones. In EVA, the back of the front seat can be folded down to act as a child seat, thus allowing children aged nine months to three years to travel more safely.

6. Low carbon footprint

Studies have shown that electric vehicles have half the carbon footprint of conventional vehicles. Taxis, in particular, have a greater impact on the environment than private cars.

Close to 30,000 taxis ply the roads, making up just 3 per cent of all vehicles here. But researchers estimate that they travel 15 per cent of the total distance covered by the vehicles.

7. There isn't much detail on how much such a taxi will cost but chances are until technology is well adopted, it will be high.

Batteries make up a huge chunk of the final cost of an electric car, but they are getting cheaper. They now cost around US$500 a kilowatt-hour, a 60 per cent drop from 2010. That could plunge further to US$175 within five years.

Apart from cost, having enough charging stations is another key factor. That has been an obstacle to electric-car adoption in the United States, Germany and China. For EVA, Singapore's more than 70 existing charging stations may need to be retrofitted.

These two factors, cost and accessibility, will probably be the most crucial elements. If mass adoption takes off, this technology will enter a virtuous cycle that could lead to lower prices and a lower carbon footprint. But if batteries do not get cheaper and have few stations to recharge, and people do not move into the technology, this could well be another missed opportunity.