Have a coffee while your EV charges within minutes instead of hours

By Yong Shu Chiang

EVe CEO Derek Tan shared how ultra-fast charging, set to debut in Singapore by the end of 2024, could be key in the electrification of vehicle fleets, as part of efforts to green the land transport sector and realise a more sustainable future.

The use of fast and ultra-fast chargers, which can charge an EV fully within minutes, could be a game-changer for fleet operators in Singapore, said Derek Tan, CEO of EVe, which is responsible for the roll-out of EV chargers in the country. Image: Huawei

The time that it takes to drink a coffee is how long it takes to charge an electric vehicle – at an ultra-fast charging station – in China.


Derek Tan, the chief executive officer of Singapore electric vehicle charging infrastructure firm EVe, first encountered this eye-catching slogan on a visit to Shenzhen last November.


“Five or 10 minutes is how long you’d take to charge a car, which I thought was amazing,” said Tan, who leads EVe, also known as EV-Electric Charging, the entity in charge of the roll-out of Singapore public EV charging infrastructure.


EVe is a subsidiary of the Land Transport Authority of Singapore (LTA).


“We thought that if we could bring this [ultra-fast charging] technology here, we could really make a difference to… bringing all of Singapore further along the EV journey.”


To help put more EVs onto Singapore roads, he added, fast and ultra-fast charging would be key to the electrification of fleets, such as taxis and other commercial vehicles, and would be “an important strategy” going forward.

China’s EV transformation in five years

From left: Goh Toh Sim, Board Director, EVe; Derek Tan, Chief Executive Officer, EVe; Terry Gao, Managing Director, Huawei Digital Power Singapore; and Maxi Wang, Chief Executive Officer, Huawei International. Image: Huawei

Speaking at the announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding between EVe and Huawei on 18 March to support collaboration in several key areas to meet Singapore’s growing EV charging needs, Tan remarked that China’s EV journey has taken just five years, since 2018.


“One thing that struck us in China was that there were so many EVs on the road,” Tan said. “One huge difference from Singapore was the number of taxis that were electric. There were so many, it was mindboggling.”


There are reportedly more than 20 million units of “new energy vehicles” in China as of the end of 2023, of which more than 15 million are purely electric vehicles. In Singapore, as of July 2023, there were nearly 13,000 EVs on the road.


Tan and his team wondered, “How did China manage to embrace EVs so quickly?” The main strategy was targeting the electrification of fleets, and fast charging stations were key to this strategy, Tan said.


GovInsider previously reported how Santiago, Chile, electrified 30 per cent of its public bus fleet from 2017 to 2023 – and now aims to achieve 100 per cent bus fleet electrification by 2035.


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Fast charging in Singapore


As part of the partnership with Huawei, EVe will be testing out the viability of installing ultra-fast charging stations, tapping on technologies such as the Shenzhen-headquartered company’s fully liquid-cooled ultra-fast chargers.


Rated at 480 kilowatt (kW), these chargers offer charging at nearly 10 times the speed of most conventional fast chargers in Singapore, where the LTA and EVe aim to install 60,000 EV charging points – 40,000 in public carparks, 20,000 on private premises – by 2030.


Overnight “slow” chargers typically cater to the needs of residential customers while “a lot of the fast chargers here are 50kW and it takes maybe an hour to charge an EV fully,” Tan said. Such a wait “just doesn’t cut it” for commercial drivers of taxis, buses or trucks.


As part of the EV Roadmap to drive EV adoption, under the Singapore Green Plan, the LTA aims to electrify half the bus fleet by 2030 while taxi operators aim to electrify at least half of the total taxi fleet by the same year.


The earliest availability of “one to two” 480kW ultra-fast chargers can be expected in the third or fourth quarter of 2024, said Tan, as they need to undergo type approval by LTA.


These ultra-fast chargers are among the 120 fast chargers to be installed in 60 carparks at public housing estate town centres and industrial zones “frequented by fleet drivers during their breaks,” said Minister of Transport Chee Hong Tat in parliament on 5 March.


“High-mileage fleet [EVs], such as taxis, private-hire vehicles, or light goods vehicles, often need a mid-day top-up,” Minister Chee added.


“They require high-powered fast chargers, which are now mostly located at commercial spaces such as shopping malls… not the usual rest spots for many fleet drivers.”

Introducing EV charging akin to the petrol-kiosk experience

While most EV chargers in residential areas in Singapore are 'slow chargers' that take several hours for a full charge, fast and ultra-fast charging stations could provide customers more of a 'petrol-kiosk' experience in the next two or three years, said EVe's Derek Tan. Image: Huawei

The use of fast and ultra-fast chargers could provide a customer experience like that of petrol kiosks in two or three years, said Tan.


“We can also reduce the amount of infrastructure investment as well as the impact on the power grid,” he said.


“If you were to plant a lot of chargers all over the place, you need land and you need electrical power at that particular site. So rather than installing many [slower] chargers, with the fast chargers, we can install fewer and still serve that same purpose.”


In his parliamentary speech, Minister Chee called the electrification of vehicles a “key pillar” in greening the land transport sector and noted that the number of hybrid or fully electric vehicles registered in 2023 made up two-thirds of all cars registered.


In the first two months of 2024, this proportion has gone up to about 80 per cent.


By bringing more fast-charging options online, Tan believes drivers would have one less hurdle towards embracing EVs as their vehicle of choice.


“We are all also trying to help motorists better understand… EV charging,” said Tan about considerations such as battery life, where and how long to charge, and the cost.


“From industry feedback, we also hear fleet operators saying, ‘Maybe not yet. Hybrids are still better and I make more money out of them.’ But is that really true? I think there are a lot of [potential] savings, and we can make the case clearer and put the facts out there.”