SMRT Taxis' private-hire arm - Strides - is partnering Toyota Tsusho to offer Singapore's first hydrogen fuel cell cars by as early as the end of the year
SMRT private-hire arm Strides to offer fuel-cell cars Strides was set up two years ago to stem the migration of drivers to private-hire alternatives offered by Grab and Uber. PHOTO: ST FILE

Strides, the private-hire subsidiary of SMRT Taxis, is tying up with the distribution arm of Toyota Motor to offer the first hydrogen fuel-cell cars in Singapore as early as the year end.

The cooperation with Toyota Tsusho will also see Strides making forays into regional markets such as Myanmar, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Japan.

SMRT Taxis managing director Tony Heng told The Straits Times yesterday that the first couple of units of fuel-cell cars will arrive as early as the end of the year.

He said Strides will start with the Toyota Mirai fuel-cell model, and will explore other models such as those from Honda and Hyundai.

If the plan materialises, Strides will be the first operator in the region to ply fuel-cell vehicles.

Fuel-cell cars use hydrogen fuel to make electricity through a chemical process. The electricity powers one or more onboard motors. Unlike conventional battery-powered cars which take hours to recharge, fuel-cell cars take only five minutes to refuel.

But each fuel-cell car costs four or five times that of a conventional petrol car. A battery-powered car costs 1.5 to two times more.

Mr Heng said the tie-up is strategic as the Japanese company has a strong presence worldwide. In Yangon, Strides is starting up soon with five Toyota Alphards, and aims to have a fleet of 100 cars within a year or so.

Strides was set up two years ago to stem the migration of drivers to private-hire alternatives offered by Grab and Uber.

Mr Heng said the firm now has close to 300 cars.

Asked how much Strides had cannibalised SMRT's taxi business, he said: "The market has more or less stabilised now. But initially, we had 10 to 20 per cent who migrated over to Strides. And for the limousine division, up to 40 per cent."

He said the growth potential is high, and he expects a taxi and private-hire fleet of 5,000 to 6,000 in the medium term. SMRT Taxis has about 3,000 cabs now.

With Uber pulling out of the market, Mr Heng said Strides is in a stronger position because of its close association with Grab. It uses the Grab booking platform and commuters can also use GrabPay to pay for rides. Mr Heng said plans are afoot to make GrabPay available throughout its taxi fleet.