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    Jul 26, 2016

    Electric taxis to ply roads from Sept

    SINGAPORE'S sixth taxi company is set to make an "electrifying" debut when its cars operate in two months' time.

    Newcomer HDT Singapore Taxi will be the first taxi firm here with an all-electric fleet.

    Yesterday, it said it plans to roll out operations in the first week of September, after getting approval from the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

    The firm plans to start with more than 10 vehicles first, before progressively ramping up its fleet to 100 by the first quarter of 2017.

    An LTA spokesman said HDT has been given a licence to operate here for an eight-year trial, as part of a government test-bed to explore the feasibility of fleet-based electric vehicle (EV) operations.

    HDT's managing director James Ng told The Straits Times that fares will be "competitive and tagged to the market rate", adding that more details will be announced when the Public Transport Council has approved its pricing structure.

    HDT Singapore Taxi, which was registered as a company here in April, will join a market with five other operators running a total of more than 28,000 cabs.

    Besides being the island's first e-taxi company, it will also be the only one to hire its drivers on full-time employment.

    The other operators rent out their vehicles to cabbies.

    Mr Ng said: "We will train our drivers to be service-oriented and passengers can expect a comfortable, quality ride with us."

    He added that drivers can earn a gross monthly salary of about $3,300, inclusive of Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions, if they meet "reasonable" revenue targets and deliver good customer service.

    HDT will use electric vehicles from BYD (Build Your Dreams), a Shenzhen-based auto and battery manufacturer that counts United States investment guru Warren Buffett as a shareholder.

    It will use BYD's fully-electric e6 model, which has a range of about 350km and a battery that requires about 90 minutes to be fully charged.

    The firm's e-taxi operations will tie in with the Government's plans to widen the testing of EVs in Singapore. The first phase, which involved individual corporate users, concluded three years ago and authorities are now exploring the viability of fleet-based operations.

    An islandwide EV car-sharing scheme will also be rolled out from next year, growing to a fleet of 1,000 by 2020.

    As it is a trial, HDT's fleet size will be capped at 100.

    Comparatively, taxi operators are required by the LTA to grow to 200 by their first year of operations, and to 800 by the fourth.

    But it is expected to comply with availability and service standards as well as regulations on taxi fare structures.

    Business development executive Haley Chan, 26, said: "I'm keen to try out the taxis, to get a feel of an electric car.

    "But it depends on whether the cabs are available and how much they cost."