Singapore launches electric car-sharing service

Singapore (AFP) –


Singapore on Tuesday launched an electric car-sharing service, the latest transport innovation aimed at encouraging people away from owning vehicles and keeping gridlock at bay in the space-starved city-state.

BlueSG, a subsidiary of France's Bollore Group, rolled out the scheme with 80 cars and 32 charging stations -- which serve as drop-off and pick-up points -- and plans to expand its fleet more than 10-fold in coming years.

It is the latest effort by authorities in the tightly-controlled financial hub of 5.6 million to prevent the sort of gridlock that has blighted other fast-developing Asian cities.

Officials have already introduced tough measures, including a licence fee that has pushed the average car price to over US$80,000, a freeze on car numbers on the roads, and major new investments in public transport.

The electric car scheme is being launched in partnership with the government, and the company hopes to eventually provide Singapore with the second-biggest electric car-sharing service in the world, after Paris.

BlueSG plans to increase the number of its cars to 100 by the end of the year, and is targeting 1,000 cars and 2,000 charging points by 2020.

The specially-built Bluecars -- four-seaters with two doors -- are slightly bigger than a smart car and were designed with Italian coachbuilder Pininfarina.

Users will be able to book an electric car online or with a mobile app, and charged for the time they rent the vehicle rather than the distance travelled. There is also an option for a monthly membership costing SG$15 (US$11).

Marie Bollore, managing director of Bollore's electric vehicles division, said Singapore's high population density and well-developed network of roads made it an ideal launchpad for the company's foray into Southeast Asia.

Ngien Hoon Ping, chief executive of Singapore's Land Transport Authority, said he hoped the initiative "will pave the way for greater adoption of electric vehicles in Singapore."

The city-state's tough traffic-control policies have largely been a success, with its streets relatively clean, orderly and clear of traffic.

But the rising price of cars and a series of recent public transport breakdowns have caused anger and prompted calls for the system to be improved.