June 4, 2018 / 11:20 AM / 19 days ago

Tesla's Musk laments Singapore electric vehicle stance

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Elon Musk, chief executive of U.S. electric vehicle (EV) maker Tesla Inc, defended his view that Singapore was not supportive of EV ownership after a commentary in the city-state’s biggest newspaper criticised the billionaire’s social media post.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the Roadster 2 during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, U.S., November 16, 2017. Tesla/Handout via REUTERS/Files

“Singapore is a very prosperous city and yet has very few electric cars,” Musk tweeted on Saturday after The Straits Times published an open letter from its senior transport correspondent titled, “Please get off your high horse.”

The letter was in response to a Musk tweet a week earlier. In that tweet, Musk responded to a Tesla admirer in Singapore who said he had long dreamt of owning one of its vehicles, and who asked the executive to make them available in the city-state.

“We tried, but Singapore govt is not supportive of electric vehicles,” Musk tweeted on May 26.

In the letter, Christopher Tan pointed out Singapore grants EV owners up to S$20,000 ($15,000) in tax breaks, and that drivers would avoid over $10,000 in petrol duty over 10 years. He also called on Tesla to make its cars more affordable.

Singapore’s Land Transport Authority did not have immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

In his Saturday response, Musk also said Singapore had enough land area to generate most of its electricity through solar energy. “No more need to import fossil fuels for electricity, which is a strategic vulnerability,” he tweeted.

Singapore is a densely populated city-state and one of the world’s most expensive places to own a car. It controls vehicle population through a system of bidding for the right to own and use a vehicle for a limited number of years.

A mid-range car in Singapore can typically cost four times the price of an equivalent vehicle in the United States. EVs are available in the country, such as Hyundai Motor Co’s IONIQ.

The government has long sought to steer commuters away from the need to buy cars. One of its recent initiatives includes a large-scale EV-sharing programme.

This is not the first time Musk has championed Singapore’s Tesla fans. In 2016, he contacted the prime minister regarding Tesla cars being subject to a carbon surcharge, local media reported.

The billionaire entrepreneur uses Twitter to comment about various issues. His Singapore tweets came after he proposed creating a website evaluating journalists’ credibility, spurred by frustration at media reports about Tesla.

($1 = 1.3343 Singapore dollars)

Reporting by Aradhana AravindanEditing by Christopher Cushing

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