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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rising petrol prices prompt switch to 'green' transport

June 8, 2008
Rising petrol prices prompt switch to 'green' transport
By Tan Dawn Wei

With pump prices heading north, motorists here are switching to cheaper alternatives.
Some have given up their cars and moved to public transport. Others have downgraded to smaller cars or two-wheelers. A growing number have opted for hybrid-engine cars.

There's even a six-month waiting time for those who are keen to kit their cars out to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) because of a sudden surge in demand, according to motor workshops.

There were 248 CNG cars on the roads last year, but this has more than doubled to 538 in April this year.

Hybrid cars, or those that switch between petrol and electricity, also shot up in the same period, going by the Land Transport Authority's numbers. Another 289 have joined their ranks, bringing the total to 1,346.

Another popular 'green' choice is public transport. Singapore's total bus and train ridership hit a record 4.78 million rides a day in the first three months of this year.

No cut in petrol duties to cushion fuel hikes
The Government is not about to reduce duty on petrol to help cushion rising pump prices.

The duty - 41 cents for every litre of standard grade petrol and 44 cents for the high-end stuff - is meant to promote public transport and curb excessive use of cars.
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The number of bids for certificates of entitlement (COEs) every month has also fallen since the beginning of this year, one more indicator that consumers are staying away from buying new cars.

COE bids for cars up to 1,600cc, for instance, fell from 3,005 bids in February to 2,500 this month.

'People are very cautious about buying big-ticket items now, with oil and food prices going up and property prices and shares moving down. They're adopting a wait-and-see approach,' said Tan Chong Motors' marketing director A.C. Neo.

If they do buy, says the Nissan distributor, small is in.

Borneo Motors, which sells Toyota cars, has also been selling more of its smaller capacity cars than its larger ones, said customer relations general manager Angeline Tan.

Another popular choice now is off-peak cars with the distinctive red plates. They can be driven from 7pm to 7am on weekdays, after 3pm on Saturdays and all day on Sundays and public holidays.

There are about 34,000 of them on the road now, compared to 2,644 just five years ago.

Mr Henry Ang, manager of car dealership Koh Brothers Automobile, said that he has seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of motorists who have switched from regular cars to off-peak cars to save money.

Petrol prices last went up two weeks ago, the 12th consecutive hike since last July. This brings pump prices here to between $2.153 and $2.386.

If you drive a 1,600cc car, that means you pay about $320 a month for petrol, going by the average distance covered. This is $70 more than the $250 you would have paid this time last year.

That bill is likely to go up as analysts expect petrol prices to hit $3 a litre here if oil prices reach US$200 (S$273) a barrel.

But energy consultant Ong Eng Tong of Mabanaft International said that he expects pump prices to end the year closer to $2.50 instead, which is about US$150 per barrel.

'Drivers will pay maybe $50 to $100 extra a month and this is discretionary income,' he said.

dawntan@sph.com.sg

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