everything you need to know about electric cars.

Electrification is the buzzword of the day, but there are hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full-electric options – what’s the difference? Here’s a simple guide to understanding the various electric vehicle options on the market today!


It’s taken the world a fair few years to get here, but today’s technological advancements mean that electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming feasible alternatives to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Supported by governmental mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the short-term future, EV adoption is rising – and rising quickly. In the not-so distant future, the only options for an electric vehicle were the Mitsubishi i-MiEV or Nissan Leaf. Unfortunately, neither model was made available for sale to consumers in Singapore.

Things began to change in 2014, with local BMW distributor Performance Motors introducing the full-electric BMW i3 to the market. Its price tag, though, put many early EV adopters off. At its list price of S$236,800, it was up S$82,000 over the 1-Series parked next to it in the showroom.

Today, though, the electric vehicle landscape in Singapore is looking much more enticing. Not only are there increased government grants for purchasing an EV, the public charging infrastructure has grown significantly. What’s more, pretty much every car manufacturer you can think of has an electric (or electrified) vehicle in their range. Heck, even Korean manufacturer Hyundai has announced plans to have an EV manufacturing plant right here in Singapore!

If all this is giving you severe FOMO on owning an electric vehicle, you’ve come to the perfect place to help you figure out which EV is best for you. We explain the various cars available in Singapore so you, as a consumer, can make an informed decision for yourself!

the traditional: Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.

Everyone knows the internal combustion engine. Thousands of mechanical parts making precious, expensive dinosaur juice explode, turning that into motion. The ICE powers the automobile as we know it, and still accounts for over 90% of global car sales.

  • What’s an ICE vehicle like to live with?
    It’s the easiest of all vehicles to live with. This is especially true in Singapore, where the nearest petrol station is less than a 10-minute drive away. Refuelling takes just 5 minutes, and you’ll be on your merry way.
  • What’s the costs of buying an ICE vehicle?
    Relatively low, as the technology has been in use for ages and costs are low. Singapore’s cheapest vehicle is an ICE Perodua Bezza, yours for just S$71,999 (as of 1st February 2021).
  • What’s the running costs of an ICE vehicle?
    For an ICE vehicle, your running costs include petrol, parking, routine servicing, and (touch wood) emergency repairs. Even for a small hatchback, you’ll be looking at about $350 a month, just for the items listed above.
  • What are some examples of ICE vehicles?
    Some examples of ICE vehicles are names that we know and love, such as the Honda City, Volkswagen Passat, and Toyota Wish.

dipping into electrification: Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs).

HEVs are a best-of-both-worlds kind of package, running on both petrol and electricity. Their drivetrain comprises of two components – an electric motor and a petrol engine. HEVs start off using the electric motor in low-load situations (such as rolling out of the carpark). Then, the petrol engine takes over to do the heavy lifting, such as accelerating to get up to an expressway.

  • What’s a HEV like to live with?
    HEVs provide the best of both worlds. You fill it up at the petrol station like a regular ICE vehicle, while getting excellent fuel economy. You never need to charge it, as the hybrid battery is charged by something called ‘regenerative braking’. This is where the electric motor helps to slow the car down, and converts that kinetic energy into electricity.
  • What’s the costs of buying a HEV?
    Slightly more than that of an ICE vehicle. This is due to the additional hybrid battery, and other components that ensure the motor and engine play nice together.
  • What’s the running costs of a HEV?
    Running costs for a HEV are slightly lower than ICE vehicles, due to the better fuel economy you enjoy. However, keep your fingers crossed that the hybrid battery doesn’t fail outside of warranty – that’s an expensive fix.
  • What are some examples of HEVs?
    Some examples of HEVs are the Toyota Prius Hybrid, Kia Niro Hybrid, and Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.

bit of both: Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).

PHEVs behave similarly to HEVs, except that their batteries can be recharged in two ways. The first way is via regenerative braking, identical to that of a HEV. What’s different, though, is that PHEVs can be plugged in to an external charger to juice the batteries up. This means that PHEVs can offer up to 20x more electric range when compared to a HEV!

  • What’s a PHEV like to live with?
    PHEVs are similar to HEVs, except having to fill it up two ways – at the pumps, and at the chargers. However, if you’re taking a moderately long trip to get your favourite char kway teow 10 km away from home, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to use any petrol on the journey there and back.
  • What’s the costs of buying a PHEV?
    More than a HEV. This is also in part due to the fact that the PHEV models available in Singapore are only offered by the premium brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. No matter, more affordable PHEVs are expected to land in 2021, such as the MG HS PHEV ($125k) and Jeep Compass 4xe (TBA).
  • What’s the running costs of a PHEV?
    Running costs of a PHEV will likely be lower than that of an equivalent HEV, especially if your journeys are usually short enough to be done in full-electric mode.
  • What are some examples of PHEVs?
    Some examples of PHEVs are the Volvo S60 Plug-in Hybrid, BMW 330e, and Mercedes-Benz C300e.

into the futr: Electric Vehicles (EVs).

Unlike all of the above models which feature a petrol engine of some sort, EVs have no petrol engine at all. Just a massive high-capacity battery pack, and an electric motor that powers the wheels. Thanks to that, EVs produce zero emissions while driving along.

  • What’s an EV like to live with?
    EVs only have their battery packs powering them, so there’s no ICE available to save you if the juice runs out. Thankfully, the EV charging network in Singapore is growing rapidly with players such as SP Group building chargers at numerous locations around the island. Even petrol stations like Shell have joined in, with fast-charging points added next to their dino-juice pumps.
  • What’s the costs of buying an EV?
    Thanks to the rapid introduction of new EVs to the local market, consumers have several options priced below the $120k point. Coupled with increased Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) rebates of up to $25k, you could be the proud owner of an EV for just a bit more than an equivalent ICE model.
  • What’s the running costs of an EV?
    Running costs of an EV are lower than the other models above, thanks to a lower cost-per-km for running purely on electricity. Additionally, the reduced number of moving parts mean that you won’t need to spend money on oil changes and engine repairs.
  • What are some examples of EVs?
    Some examples of EVs are the Nissan Leaf Electric, Hyundai Ioniq Electric and MG ZS Electric.

Now that you know the differences, why not explore some up and coming EVs and hybrids at our futr rides section?

marcus lim

In between reviewing cars on burnpavement.com, Marcus loves corgis, roadtrips, and searching for new places to eat.

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