Is it time to buy an electric motorcycle in Singapore?

"I feel that the technology is starting to get matured but local laws and the policy environment have not caught up yet."

by Robin Low

We are probably not ready for disruption in Singapore yet.

Yes, the first registered electric motorcycle I’ve seen has arrived in Singapore, and no, it is not a Tesla or a Superbike – it is actually a very utilitarian Aidea AA-cargo – 3 wheeled bike.

I’ve owned and ridden a Zero Motorcycle, and it feels exactly like a big motorcycle, except that it is completely silent, torquey, and has a short-range.

Not a bad bike, easily goes 140km/h, but the range is only about 200km per charge.

My other motorcycles have about a 300-400km range and go faster.

I’ve owned many other motorcycles before, from old carburetted bikes, and now riding fuel injection motorcycles. And I’m curious about electric vehicles and how they start to progress.

So after some research, here is some information to let you learn more about electric motorcycles (in Singapore).

They need to adhere to international safety/homologation standards as well as local requirements

Like any vehicles that go on the road, they need to be homologated and pass certain standards. There are rigorously tested before you can even buy one. As electric vehicles are new, the standards are almost always engineered for safety.

Unlike PMDs, homologated electric motorcycles need to go through more stringent tests and documentation needs to be submitted. When the electric motorcycle is homologated, you can buy the insurance and get a license plate to ride it on the road like any other motorcycle.

Charging standards (Combined charging system, CCS)

A nationwide electric vehicle (EV) charging standard TR25:2016 has been established for the EV charging system in Singapore, so all-electric motorcycles need to comply with that standard.

Singapore adopted CHAdeMO and Type 2 charging. Under TR25, there are two national public charging standards: Type 2 (AC) (slow charging) and Combo 2 (DC) (fast charging).

However, there are a few charging standards in the world. There are Type 1 connectors and Type 2 connectors. There are also Direct DC charging which are way more advanced that can change the way electric vehicles are charged. But don’t worry, many of these new electric vehicles are equipped with multiple connectors.

Tesla also has their own charging standards which offer superfast charging.

Charging electric vehicles is way more advanced (and heavy) than your normal charging of your PMD. All-electric vehicles will have Battery Management System (BMS), and it is responsible for managing the optimum performance of the battery pack.

Overcharging and deep discharging can degrade the battery, and the BMS determines the right amount of current that can safely go in and communicates with the motor controller to prevent cell voltages from going too low.

BMS also does cell balancing as the individual cells may hold charges differently over time.

BMS will auto step down AC current and convert to DC for charging.

In the case of the Japan Built Aidea electric motorcycle, it has a Japanese Quality Controlled BMS for charging, and another BMS for the battery which also monitors the temperature, voltages, and current as well.

Motorcycle safety

All-electric motorcycles need to be tested for safety as well. The brakes, suspension, motors need to perform as they should. For now, the brake system is the same hydraulic disc brake system found in all motorcycles, so there is no difference between electric bikes and petrol bikes.

For this bike, a standard three-wheeler bike or a trike. (Class 2B motorcycle) The width fits perfectly into a motorcycle parking lot, and it is no different from any other trike.

It has a windshield and a roof, and for our tropical weather, it also has windshield wipers and spray nozzles to clean off dirt, and water for safer riding.

The electric motors are also power rated, and there are generally two classes, L2e (don’t need a license but not available in Singapore) and L5e (require a motorcycle license to ride on the road and the highway.

Generally, electric bikes have a lot of torque, and they accelerate fast but don’t expect them to have a high top speed.

Suspension-wise, most electric bikes need to be tuned to the weight. This Aidea electric motorcycle has a unique articulated tilting/suspension: a system for rear 2 drive wheels. So it can be quick, nimble, and safe.

Storage Capacity

When you have a lot of torque, why not carry a lot of cargo?

I feel that for now, electric bikes work great for delivery and logistics. With a lot of torque, they can carry a lot of loads.

I feel that this Aidea AA-Cargo bike is a great example. It is a 3-wheel vehicle (13-inch large-diameter wheel – 1 front wheel and 2 rear) equipped with right and left independent rear suspension, windshield, wiper, and roof. It provides a large loading platform with a maximum loading capacity of 100kg.

Fitting a big box in the rear with 2 wheels for stability, make delivery safer. The 2 wheels and rear suspension system is dedicated to load-bearing and has the best center of gravity to be stable.

Is it time to buy an electric motorcycle?

I feel that the technology is starting to get matured but local laws and the policy environment have not caught up yet.

I do agree that driving/riding electric vehicles are zero emission and great to go around with, but in Singapore, there is a lot of talks, hypes, and even fuel hikes, yet it still costs a lot to own one.

For example, foreign countries have good incentives for owners to turn in ICE for electric motorcycles.

Like buying a hybrid car earlier, taxes do not make sense for cost savings unless you are in the logistic business. There will be a lot of cost savings if you ride 70km a day like a Singpost dispatch rider and the fuel cost you save will be significant.

Currently, the insurance companies have not caught up and it will be hard to buy vehicle insurance. There are also not enough charging stations although when they are built, it would also mean that the early adopters can charge without any competition.

Sadly, duties, reg taxes, and taxes already overwhelming the ICE with a zero growth, would create an even high entry barrier, especially for such safety and quality-built motorcycles like the Aidea, with a higher price, due to its tech and battery alike all EV.

Even though the Government seems to want to promote electric vehicles, policies make it a penalty for early adoption = until the dubious mfg come in like our PMD and PAB.

This was first published on Robin Low’s blog on Medium, and reproduced with permission.
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