1. Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you today for the Formula SAE Sponsors Appreciation Day.
2. I first met the NUS Formula Team in 2019, where they showed me how they design and build scaled versions of race cars to compete in the annual Formula SAE International Varsity Competition. Today, I congratulate the NUS team for building Singapore’s first-ever electric Formula SAE race car. I am happy that we have made progress in our vehicle electrification journey, including for racing.
3. In my speech today, I will touch on 3Rs. Demonstrating Resilience through the Pandemic; Cultivating Relationships amongst Stakeholders; and Ensuring Readiness for the Future Workforce. Of course, this includes how to prepare our young people for skills that are required in the future, for jobs that will be available in the future.
Demonstrating Resilience through the Pandemic
4. The NUS Formula Team has demonstrated resilience in the face of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions prevented the team from competing in Michigan, USA. They could not do so in the past two years, but the team persevered, and made full use of the time to switch from building a traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) car, to building an electric race car instead.
5. This transition has not been an easy one – many of the team members from other disciplines had to pick up electrical engineering skills from scratch, through rigorous training courses provided by industry sponsors like TÜV SÜD and GenPlus, along with ST Engineering and Bossard, in order to safely handle high-voltage parts and other components of the electric race car.
6. This electric race car therefore embodies the resilience and ingenuity of the NUS team. This is fitting, because the story of the fall and rise of electric vehicles is also one of resilience and ingenuity.
7. Not many people know that electric cars were actually more common than ICE cars in the late 19th century. Porsche’s first car in 1898, the P1, was actually an electric car. In fact, the first automobile speed record in history was set by a French electric car that same year, which achieved an average speed of 63km/h, which was groundbreaking in those days! By the 1930s, however, ICE cars had totally eclipsed their electric competitors due to significant improvements in engine and fuel technology.
8. The return of electric cars has gone through many ups and downs. Amid surging oil prices in the 1970s, the US Department of Energy tried to build a model, but unfortunately it did not succeed, it did not go anywhere. Some twenty years later, in 1996, General Motors introduced the first mass-produced electric vehicle, the EV1, but unfortunately it also did not take off as the market for electric vehicles was then assessed to be unprofitable.
9. This was followed by EVs from several other car manufacturers – Honda, Nissan, and Chevrolet, but all these were discontinued by the early 2000s, also for commercial reasons. You could say some of these were good prototypes, but maybe ideas ahead of their time that were not quite ready for commercial mass production.
10. Fast forward to the 2010s – EVs have finally made it back on the scene, led by a new generation of automakers such as Tesla in the US, BYD in China and increasingly many others. Today, a bright future lies ahead for the technology.
11. Like the motor car makers, the NUS Formula Team is also resilient in working on Singapore’s pioneer electric racing car. Today’s launch of the Formula SAE electric race car is timely, as it mirrors Singapore’s own effort to gradually electrify our vehicle population.
12. The Government has announced that we aim to reduce peak land transport emissions by 80% by or around 2050. Vehicle electrification is critical to this land transport sustainability effort. This includes electric cars, as well as electric buses, motorcycles and commercial vehicles.
13. We are happy to see the encouraging progress towards EV adoption in Singapore. New EV registrations accounted for 8.4% of all new car registrations in the first five months of 2022, more than twice our EV adoption rate in 2021.
14. Now, EV is not the only solution to achieving land transport emission reduction. The emission of an EV is approximately half that of an ICE vehicle. But if you were to take an electric bus, the carbon emission is only 30% compared to an ICE vehicle. The MRT is even better at 10%. If you walk or cycle, the emission is zero. Notwithstanding, we understand the need for a range of different options. We cannot just have public transport or cycling; we also need to have private vehicles and commercial vehicles. Therefore, the option of EV is part of the overall sustainability solution.
Cultivating Relationships amongst Stakeholders
15. The progress that we have achieved would not have been possible without the strong public-private partnerships, between Government and Industry. The Government has set the strategic direction we can put in place, enabling policies and regulations for EVs. But we cannot achieve the commercialisation and technology breakthroughs without the participation of researchers, companies, and of course, our workers and our consumers. We need to work closely with the industry to provide the commercial and innovative solutions and this will continue to evolve in the future.
16. We work with EV charging operators (EVCOs) to bring charging points to EV users in our HDB heartlands. In November 2020, we launched a joint URA-LTA pilot tender, to equip 200 public carparks with 600 charging points.
17. We then launched a large-scale tender in April 2022, covering nearly 2,000 HDB carparks. This will enable us to deploy an additional 12,000 charging points, for every HDB town to be EV-Ready by 2025.
18. We also worked with industry partners, such as Bluecharge, CDG ENGIE, Charge+, Shell Recharge and SP Mobility, to launch an app to provide information of over 800 charging points in 200 locations. This will enhance EV users’ access to information on the public EV charging network. Of course, some people will have their own chargers at home, but many people will not. Therefore, providing publicly accessible charging points is crucial to facilitating the adoption of EVs in Singapore.
19. We launched a public consultation exercise earlier this month to seek views on our proposal for new EV charging regulations. Because this is a new area, we have new rules. This is an ongoing consultation exercise, so for those of you who are interested to provide your feedback, please do so. Public feedback on the proposed regulations, especially from industry stakeholders, will help Government set clear, balanced and effective requirements that will help us grow a safe and reliable EV charging network.
Ensuring Readiness for the Future Workforce
20. Our transition to EVs will bring new and exciting opportunities in the new green economy. Engineering students can look forward to jobs and training in new areas, such as EV software diagnostics, battery and charging infrastructure.
21. Our institutions of higher learning play a critical role in grooming our future workforce. Projects like building the Formula SAE race car give our students a chance to apply what they learn. These are excellent opportunities. Our institutions of higher learning are also sources of deep technical expertise, and they equip students with job-ready skills. I understand the NUS College of Design and Engineering (CDE) offers inter-disciplinary courses in power electronics, programming and signals, which helps students to be ready for EV-related job opportunities.
22. In Chinese, there is a saying: “知是行之始，行是知之成”. What it means is knowledge empowers action, and action translates knowledge into outcomes. This is actually what engineering is all about. We acquire the knowledge, we then translate that knowledge to practical solutions to solve problems, to make life better.
23. Please allow me to conclude by conveying my heartiest congratulations once again to the NUS team, industry sponsors and partners for all your accomplishments. Let us continue to work together to embrace and seize the opportunities that lay ahead on our journey of our EV transition. Thank you.