Anyone who has heard about the Tesla Model S will probably tell you it is a zero-emissions vehicle – after all, it has no tailpipe and emits no exhaust while driving. While that may have been a convincing argument for Joe Nguyen to take to Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, the agency hit Singapore’s first Tesla Model S owner with a tax of S$15,000 (roughly US$10,840), and ranked his electric sedan in the dirtiest category of high-pollution vehicles.
Joe Nguyen apparently spent several months trying to import a Model S he purchased in Hong Kong. and being that it was the first time the Land Transport Authority tested a Model S, Mr. Nguyen didn’t know exactly what to expect – but he certainly wasn’t expecting an emissions tax bill. “I don’t get it, there are no emissions,” Nguyen said in an interview. “Then they send out the results from VICOM, stating that the car was consuming 444 watt hour per kilometre (Wh/km). These are not specs that I have seen on Tesla’s website, or anywhere else for that matter. And then underneath it, there’s a conversion to CO2 emission.”
Singapore’s government operates a Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) to offer financial encourage to citizens buying low-pollution vehicles. The cleaner the vehicle, the larger the tax rebate. Cars emitting less than 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre are eligible for S$30,000 in rebates, while vehicles emitting more than 230 grams of CO2 per kilometre get hit with a S$30,000 bill. The tricky part is how the Land Transport Authority came up with that 444 Wh/km number for the Model S. The biggest-battery Model S P90D carries a 90 kilowatt-hour battery, and claims a maximum driving range of 270 miles, using 210 watt-hours per kilometer according to Tesla’s official US specs. But Channel NewsAsia spoke with a Land Transport Authority spokesperson who claimed that the Model S in question consumed 444 watt-hours per kilometer under United Nations Economic Commission for Europe R101 testing.
“As for all electric vehicles, a grid emission factor of 0.5 g CO2/Wh was also applied to the electric energy consumption. This is to account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process, even if there are no tail-pipe emissions. The equivalent CO2 emission of Mr Nguyen’s car was 222g/km, which is in the CEVS surcharge band,” the spokesperson told Channel NewsAsia.
The spokesperson added that other electric vehicles have been registered in Singapore, and have received rebates under CEVS. This being Tesla, of course, Elon Musk is already on the case:
@Astro_Valdric @TeslaMotors We spoke earlier today and he said he would investigate the situation.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 4, 2016
It won’t be the first conversation between Musk and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: Last month, the Prime Minister visited Silicon Valley, and got to ride in a Tesla Model S P90D. We’ll see if Singapore remains the first country to penalize the Model S as a gross polluter.