Elon Musk might command notable admiration and respect from countries such as China, but it appears that Singapore does not feel the same way about the Tesla CEO. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Singapore’s minister for environment and water resources Masagos Zulkifli issued a brusque rebuttal to Musk’s statement on May 2018, which involved the CEO stating that the island nation was “unwelcome” to electric cars.
When asked by the news agency about his response to Musk’s previous comments, Zulkifli noted that the CEO wants to produce a “lifestyle,” and that is simply something that Singapore prefers to do. Instead, the island nation is looking for proper solutions to address the climate crisis, such as investing in mass transportation. “What Elon Musk wants to produce is a lifestyle. We are not interested in a lifestyle. We are interested in proper solutions that will address climate problems,” he said.
Musk’s tweets about Singapore came as a response to an electric vehicle enthusiast who inquired when Tesla will make its presence felt in the city-state. In a response on Twitter, Musk explained that Tesla had tried to enter the island nation, but Singapore’s government was “not supportive of electric vehicles.” It should be noted that Singapore is incredibly restrictive to ownerships of single-occupancy vehicles, both electric and those powered by the internal combustion engine.
Instead, the city has invested heavily in mass transit systems, with trains and buses covering much of the island’s 720 square kilometers (280 square miles). Yet, despite this, Zulkifli maintained that Singapore is uniquely positioned to embrace a zero-emissions fleet. “If there’s any country which can convert from petrol cars to 100% EVs, it will be Singapore,” he said.
Interestingly, Zulkifli noted that he believes hydrogen-powered vehicles are a better long-term solution than all-electric cars as a means to decarbonize transportation. As noted in a Bloomberg report, the Singapore minister explained that is due to the carbon footprint of battery-electric vehicles, which come mainly from mining the materials required to produce batteries and the challenges for their disposal.
These concerns might prove unfounded in the long run, especially since companies like Tesla are working to optimize the materials used in its vehicle’s batteries, including an initiative to completely remove cobalt from its battery cells. Companies such as Rivian and Jaguar have also started programs to repurpose vehicle batteries after they are no longer optimal for use, converting them into energy storage devices that can be used for homes and remote areas.
Singapore welcomed its first charging point at a petrol station earlier this month, as per the Royal Dutch Shell Plc, and nine more are expected to open by October. This, if any, is a way to address a recent study which showed that about 52% of Singaporeans are deterred from purchasing an electric car because they believe there are not enough places to charge their vehicles (a valid concern considering that most of the island nation’s population do not have personal garages). “Just choosing a parking spot is already problematic. And now you want to say who gets the charging point. We do not have the solution yet,” Zulkifli said.