Is Singapore right to charge Electric Vehicle Fine for Tesla S?

Lately there was a case of a man who imported the first Tesla S into Singapore and was slapped with a $15,000 Electric Vehicle Fine. He wrote an open letter to make a case for his Tesla S and hope to get a refund. In most countries including the US, owner of the same Tesla S model actually gets tax rebate since Tesla S is an electric car which is supposed to be ‘greener’ than their gasoline counterpart.

Different way of computing carbon emission of electric vehicle

The reason from LTA is that they took into account the carbon emission from the power grid which apparently is a first among national regulators. I guess the question should be why are the other regulators not taking into account power grid carbon emission? Electric car consumes electricity, electricity comes from power station and most power station emits carbon dioxide. It is a fairly straight forward association. According to LTA, Mr Nguyen’s used Tesla S has an electrical energy consumption of 444 Wh/km while Tesla’s own energy rating is only at 181 Wh/km. This is quite a huge discrepancy. Are old Tesla car significantly less energy-efficient than a new one? The efficiency dropped almost by 2.5 times!

Assuming that LTA’s calculation is correct, this Tesla S is indeed not a very ‘green’ car. So the fine may be justifiable. Of course, $15,000 may seem a lot to many people. However, this is what car owners in Singapore have been paying all this while for the less energy-efficient car.

“You would not charge someone CO2 emissions for owning an iPhone that they charge at home, would you?”

So if the government decides to implement a similar fine for iPhone or more generally smartphone user, how much would it cost you? Let’s compare the Tesla S with an iPhone 6s Plus.

Tesla S

The Tesla S has battery capacity that ranges from 40 kWh to 90 kWh and can travel 260km to 509km.  Assuming that the owner of the Tesla S drives lightly for about 10km per year on the 40k Wh model, he would have charged his car around  38 times taking in a total energy consumption of 1.52 MWh (40KWh/260km x 10,000km) based on Tesla’s specification. Using LTA’s calculation, the energy consumption will be 4.44 MWh (444 Wh/km x 10,000km)  .

iPhone 6s Plus

I took this model of iPhone for comparison as it has the highest battery capacity among all the other iPhones. The iPhone 6s has a battery capacity of 2750 mAh or 10.45 Wh. Assuming a daily charge, in a year, the total energy consumption of the iPhone will be  around 3.8kWh.

The results

Let’s recap the results in a table:

One year Energy Consumption of Tesla vs iPhone
Tesla S (Spec) Tesla S (LTA) iPhone
1.52 MWh 4.44 MWh 3.8 kWh

Another assumption I have made is that Mr Nguyen’s bought a 10 year COE. So using a 10 year period, the total fine an iPhone 6s Plus user should pay will be:

Fine for ten years of usage
Tesla S iPhone 6s Plus (Spec) iPhone 6s Plus (LTA)
SGD 15,000

 3.8 kWh / 1.52 MWh x 15,000

= SGD 37.50

3.8 kWh / 4.44 MWh x 15,000

=SGD 12.84

Given that our phone usually last us for 2 years before we re-contract, the total amount tax that we should pay will then be:

Fine for two years of usage
iPhone 6s Plus (Spec) iPhone 6s Plus (LTA)
SGD 7.50 SGD 2.57

According to IDA, there are 8,211,400 mobile subscriber in the month of December 2015 (both postpaid and prepaid). A survey by Deloitte’s Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) puts our mobile penetration rate at 90%. In this estimate, I will use only smartphone for calculating the total fine.

The final total yearly fine that the government can collect for charging smartphones will thus add up to be …

~SGD9.5 million to SGD27.7 million

Wow, suddenly the amount seems significant compared to the revenue from ERP which stands at SGD 152 million as of 2014. Hope no one is having new idea on taxing handphone charging! Logistically implementing this taxation may be a nightmare too. Imagine different models having different variants with different battery capacity, some with additional battery pack etc…

So are electric cars really green?

Let’s get back to topic. From the manufacturing of electric car (think about the ginormous  battery they used in electric car, are you sure they are environmentally friendly?) to charging the car from power grid that is powered by non-renewable energy sources, electric car may not be as eco-friendly as we thought.

However, things can improve if more investment is made on renewable energy sources. Our electric vehicle may then be able to be powered by green electricity and our carbon footprint can thus be reduced. Until we reach that stage, I think it is fair for Singapore to charge Electric Vehicle Fine, that is of course if the calculation from LTA is indeed correct.

PS: Don’t just hear from me, hear it from the expert:

**UPDATES: 12 Mar 2016

Tesla has shot back at LTA comparing the Tesla S with a Mercedes S-class. According to their calculation, the Tesla S is around 3 times lower in terms of Co2 emission based on their original factory rating (181 Wh/km).
[Update 27 Oct 2016] Two mode of Tesla cars get their tax break in Singapore. 

Read More