Tesla Model S Hit With $15,000 Emission Surcharge In Singapore (Update: Tesla Says Bad Math Is The Issue)


Tesla Model S Montage

Tesla Model S Montage

In Singapore, a Tesla Model S, a car that receives tax breaks in multiple countries, was hit with a $15,000 surcharge.

Joe Nguyen, 44-year-old father of three and Singapore resident, already dealt with a mess importing the car from Hong Kong at a sticker price of $400,000! Then, it took him over six moths to get the car approved.

Update (March 10th, 2016): Tesla statement added below on the confusing results from this sale, indicating that a combination of bad math and incorrect testing of the Model S has lead to this $15,000 charge being applied incorrectly.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Nguyen commented:

“Honestly, it’s stupid. I went back to them (Land Transport Authority or LTA), and they cited a UN emission test regulation. They also factored in carbon emissions at the power station. We don’t apply a carbon penalty to people charging their iPhones, do we?”

The LTA responded:

“Based on tests conducted under the UNECE R101 standards, the electric energy consumption of his imported used Tesla car was 444 watt-hour/km. (To) account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process a grid emission factor of 0.5g/watt-hour was also applied to the electric energy consumption”.

This information put the Tesla within Singapore’s $15,000 surcharge. Interestingly enough, recently a Peugeot Ion was given a $20,000 break and a BMW i3 and an i8 both qualified for $30,000 rebates.

Nguyen, unfortunately, paid the charge to expedite the situation and agreed to only charge the car at his home. He said:

“I’ve given up on getting the money back. I just want LTA to improve. There is a lot of interest in the Model S.”

Update (March 10th, 2016):  Tesla spoke to InsideEVs and passed along this statement on the matter

The Model S that our customer imported into Singapore left our factory in 2014 with energy consumption rated at 181 Wh/km. As the Land Transport Authority has confirmed, this qualifies as the cleanest possible category of car in Singapore and entitles the owner to an incentive rather than a fine.

Model S achieves this result because CO2 emissions in gas-powered cars are far higher than in electric cars. In Singapore, electricity generation releases roughly 0.5kgCO2/kWh. Based on energy consumption in Model S of 181 Wh/km, this results in 90 g CO2/km. Driving an equivalent gas-powered car like the Mercedes S-Class S 500 results in emissions of approximately 200 gCO2/km. And because of oil extraction, distribution, and refining, approximately 25% more has to be added on top of that to calculate the real carbon footprint of gas-powered cars. That means an electric car like the Model S has almost three times lower CO2 per km than an equivalent gas-powered car. Moreover, as Singapore increases the percentage of grid power from solar and wind, the CO2 from electricity drops with each passing year. 

We are having cooperative discussions with the LTA to ensure a proper understanding of these issues and to make sure that they are correctly testing our customer’s Model S. Based on the positive nature of those discussions, we are confident that this situation will be resolved soon.

Singapore is making a huge mistake with such decisions and/or understanding of how its own program works.. Zafar Momin, Nanyang Business School adjunct associate professor fears that the country may have ruined its chances to be a leader in EVs. He explained:

“Given Singapore’s land size, great infrastructure and commitment to sustainability, we would not only have been the perfect test bed for electric vehicles (EVs), but also an ideal market for their wider application and usage. While we have initiatives and incentives for EVs, we may already have missed the big opportunity to be a leader in EVs as a nation. The Tesla importation case is perhaps indicative of why we may have missed the opportunity.”

Source: ST

Categories: Tesla

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68 Comments on "Tesla Model S Hit With $15,000 Emission Surcharge In Singapore (Update: Tesla Says Bad Math Is The Issue)"

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This is 0ne of the reasons these 3rd world countries are moving forward & advancing so rapidly….L M A 0…
…….$400,000???…Now that is INSANELY LUDICROUS …

I highly doubt anyone would ever consider either Hong-Kong or Singapore parts of the thirld world….

They are.

NATO is first-world. Communist bloc is second-world. Non-aligned is third-world. Former British colonies are considered third-world unless they declared independence and aligned themselves.

Singapore is a third-world country. Hong Kong was also third-world if you assumed they are a country, though now I think you could technically call it second-world, since China technically owns them.

Third by occidental definition but not by wealth.

Yeah. Third world usually means emerging, not technologically advanced. I think he was merely trying to say their law in regards to evs is anachronistic.

thank you ffbj

Thank you Kubel

You are correct as to the original definition, but it changed long before the fall of the “2nd World”. Now it’s entirely an economic concept.

“NATO is first-world”

Is that the “old NATO” or the “new NATO”?

I certainly don’t consider the recent new members such as Turkey as “first world”…

$400,000 in what currency? Singapore dollars? HK dollars? Or US Dollars?

I would love to see the details of how they measured 444 wh/km on the car. Perhaps the method only counts “emissions” during acceleration? I also wonder if they do the same well-to-wheel carbon accounting for gasoline. Something seriously wrong here.

I think who ever did the calculation messed up on math. They probably took 276wh/mile and multiplied it by 1.60934 instead of by 0.621371 which would equal to 171wh/km.

Aka, someone failed at math and did a backwards calculation.

Holy cow, you may be right! 444 Wh/km is clearly ludicrous, like saying a car gets 8 miles per gallon. Normally a ludicrous number (that doesn’t pass the “sanity check” as we call it) prompts one to recheck their math.

I hope Singapore citizens are maintaining pressure on LTA (and UN ECE) to justify that ridiculous number.

At least the 0.5 g/Wh number they used is sane.

Er, no – If you read the article, they (rather idiotically) added a factor for power station emissions… I wonder if they do the same to fossil-fueled cars considering every gallon of petrol or diesel uses about 6kWh of electrical energy to refine?

It is utterly unbelievable. Will some rubber stamp-wielding clerk get sacked over this fiasco? MW

We could also ask at what price per ton of CO2 is he paying $15,000?

The “.5gr/wh” assumption is reasonable. All coal is probably closer to .9. The problem is a Tesla is probably responsible for only 5-25 tons, over 50,000 miles. No matter how you divide the $15k, you are looking at crazy carbon prices, near $1,000 per ton.

Most international carbon auctions price closer to $10/ton (CA, RGGI, Europe). If you know anything about allowances, it looks even more ridiculous.

That amounts to nothing less than a slap in the face to Tesla and potential customers.

Awesome PR opportunity since it is so obviously wrong and will get lots of free press coverage

Yes. I can’t wait to hear what Mr Musk will tweet over this one! MW

And the poor guy does not have any warranty on the car.

I really doubt that someone who $415,000 for a car can be described as poor. Quite the opposite in fact.

Poor does not always relate to wealth but also relates to unfortunate

Yes, but it’s a poor choice of words in that particular context. It’s like saying: Poor Bill Gates has to pay billions of dollars in income taxes to the IRS.

Not from America?

Yea,$400,000 & N0 warrantee , Maybe Tesla will fly a guy there to fix it.(in a Falcon 9 Rocket)…l o l ((like Rolls Royce used to do)) But he can still get Updates over the air…….

Does the LTA have a good Staff Insurance Policy? I can see some people very upset with this whole idea that EV’s Pollute MORE than ICE Vehicles!

Its a fairly transparent soak the rich scheme. The leftists here should be all for it.


It has nothing to do with left/right politics. Singapore is an island nation with the 3rd most dense concentration of population, and no magical source of new land.

They can’t sustain a western 2+ car family suburban detached home lifestyle. Singapore actively promotes high density housing and public transport, while taxing individual car ownership and expansive homes. The result is high car prices and only 15% of households owning cars.

They do this because they can do math, and they understand the concept of planning well into the future.


I was thinking that also.

That’s a good point.

Having an incorrectly calculated carbon tax levied feels different than a wealth tax.


444 watt-hrs per km is actually super outrageous and you would have to drive like a lunatic to get such figures in a Model S

Wonder what the cost will be for diesel vehicles (VW etc) for emitting up to 40x the published GHG emission’s? If 1x is $15,000 … 40x must be at least $$$$,$$$!!

Also wonder what kind of carbon burning fees all those transport ship pay when not anchored off of Singapore Harbor?

N0 N0 N0….those guys get a Big Rebate ! The BIG Tariffs are 0nly on USA Goods… The Government does the opposite of normal over there… lol ……If the USA & Canada charged Huge Tariffs Like they do ,& THEY SHOULD! There would be more Jobs in the HOME LANDS & Those guys would be in BIG trouble over there…

VW is up for emitting 40X NOx, not GHG. The irony is that, to reduce NOx their exhaust requires more diesel, as a catalyst. More diesel means higher CO2 (or GHG). That’s why one dynamic to the VW scandal is concern for lower fuel efficiency, when fixed.

er, should I say “fixed”.

The global warming potential (ratio to CO2) of N2O is 310 but the ratio of CO2 to N2O produced still makes CO2 the far bigger problem.

2018 headline

Chevy Bolt now most popular car in Singapore.

I hope Chevrolet actually gets a chance to sell the Bolt, or at least a variant of it, in China.

Yes, GM is the good guy for the oil industry (remember when they act with a big oil company to burn (literally) a lot of electric trolley networks in various US cities to create a major market for ICE cars, or when they crashed the EV1 after buying Hummer and getting government subsides to develop the hydrogen (producing by big oil companies)fool cell technology).
At the contrary, Tesla is the nightmare of oil companies, the same ones which pays a lot of fees to Singapore government from passing through the Malacca Strait with their oil tankers.

What a bunch of Tesla fanboy hogwash.

Nothing more intelligent to add?

Well he did have something to add.

Well, I am surprised that you didn’t add more conspiracy based stuff to it…

Hi RexxSee. Supported you on your WTC #7 stance. You are at least informed. It is getting really old watching uninformed people criticizing those who know what they are talking about. Julian Trudeau was on our ‘typically lousy’ 60 minutes program last night, but I was impressed that all 3 stories (JT, Death Row in Texas, and the scumbag head ‘King of Coal’ (scumbag, since his mines are unnecesarily dangerous, and violate existing safety standards) had value. “Lopez” was no more guilty of the death of an innocent than a local doctor here who avoided jail time by claiming he didn’t realize he had killed a girl by the side of the road. He was resigned that he was going to be put to death, and is still in favor of the death penalty for other people, but, although committing a crime it was apparent to me he didn’t want to cause anyone’s death, and it was as accidental as the local case here. Except ‘Lopez’ is now dead, and our local doctor here is still out of jail. In the previous story, Trudeau politely requested that the US populace stop being so self-centered and start learing a little bit… Read more »

“It is getting really old watching uninformed people criticizing those who know what they are talking about.”

LOL! Says someone who just outed himself as a 9/11 “Truther” conspiracy theorist.

Almost like irony…


Yet Singapore does everything in its authoritarian power to keep its population from burning fossil fuels. It’s nightmarishly hard to get a car there, sprawl is not allowed, they have a beautiful subway system, yet everyone with money spends all their time stuck in traffic.

The whole story sounds fishy to me. $400,000 for a Model S, even a new one is ridiculous. You could have bought the car almost any where in the world new for around $100,000 and shipped for a couple of thousand dollars. This story is so outrageous that I have to assume that it’s completely fabricated.

You’re forgetting import taxes and homologation. Quite a few countries have very high import duties on cars (mine gets to 140% on some luxury cars).

In addition, story says “it took him over six moths to get the car approved” — possibly, if there’s no official importer, he had to go through the full homologation process that an importer would have to, but an importer amortizes this over many cars sold rather than one. That could easily cost $100K.
In fact, in a place as authoritarian as Singapore, I’m surprised it’s even possible to register a car brand without an official importer.

When I visited in 1989, the import tariff on all cars was 100%. It appears other fees have been added. Yet rich Singaporeans (ethnic Chinese) bid tens of thousands of dollars in auctions for lucky license plate numbers based on Chinese superstition.

A good Point! Perhaps we all failed to realize that…..U R rite, I’m beginning to smell the Pig poop as we speak..

Not necessarily. Singapore charges extraordinarily high import duties on autos. If you assume a $120,000 Tesla, the duties would run about U.S. $210,000. Singapore also does not want to be gridlocked, so it limits the number of vehicles, and auctions off the right to one of the rationed number of “certificates of entitlements” each month. That can add another U.S. $35,000-$40,000. Add a U.S. $15,000 carbon fee, you’re in the neighborhood of U.S. $400K.

Australia regulatory emissions testing have the Tesla model S 85 at 181Wh/km

The problem with Singapore’s math is that they are only considering part of the emissions for ICE cars (those from burning gas) and not from the whole picture (e.g. electricity used during refinement, mining, transportation etc.). Refinement alone uses an enormous amount of electricity – almost enough to fully power an EV.

So in this case they are comparing the full emissions of the Model S (from electricity) to a standard based on just part of the gas emissions from an ICE car and then concluding the Model S isn’t better and should have a penalty.

Instead, they should consider the full well to wheel emissions of an ICE car, which would probably be closer to 1000g/km and then the Model S would look great at ~200g/km.

That’s not the problem. the problem is they used a completely made up number for the Wh per km number. It’s 2-3 times the real number. When you use a correct value for Wh/km, it would not get the penalty.

“which would probably be closer to 1000g/km”

You can actually look that stuff up. Argonne Lab has done a meticulous job of factoring in these well-to-pump emissions and they are about 20-30% of well-to-wheel emissions. So nothing even close to 1 kg/km CO2 emissions.

Just google for Argonne well to wheel or something like that, and this comes up for instance: http://research.me.udel.edu/~prasad/meeg442_642/handouts/WTW_Analysis.pdf

You can do all kinds of math to see how far out your WAG is: the world has roughly 1 billion cars. If every vehicle travels 15,000 km per year, that is a total of 15,000 billion km. At CO2 emissions of 1 kg/km, that would be 15 GT of CO2 anually, or nearly half of all global CO2 emissions. Just from driving passenger cars!

We all want to promote EV’s, but please, stick to the facts.

Fair enough. Thanks for the comment.

Singapore may have got the math wrong, but their approach of looking at overall carbon emissions per km deserves merit. This is part of my problem with the model S. Sure, It is electric, but it is of a size that I would consider rather obscene. The only cars it is better than ecologically are the other cars in its own class – like the Merc S or a BMW 7. There are plenty of ICE mid sized and compact sedans that would match its 100 g/km today. If we are interested in the climate change aspects of automobiles, we really need to start holding automakers (including Tesla) accountable for the kinds of cars they offer.

Singapore is actually a place where they can mandate a electric only policy. People are paying 2-3 times the price of the car itself to get the certificate of entitelement for obvious reasons.

And with 265 miles of range, you only need to charge it only once a week.

444 Wh/km is absurd. The 85 kWh Model S, with, say, 80 kWh usable electricity, would have a range of less than 200 km.

Even when accounting for, say, 20% charger losses, I can not make the numers work.

I go for the ‘some clerk made a multiplication instead of a division error’ explanation.

So Joe Nguyen would have no problem at all fighting this 15k penalty.

He might well have a very difficult time getting a bureaucracy to admit it made a mistake, even if it’s something as simple as a math error. The very high import tariffs and duties rather suggest Singapore is trying hard to keep out imports, and if so, officials are likely to turn a blind eye to any mistakes that increase those tariffs.

It’s very unfortunate that Singapore has chosen to be so counterproductive in slapping a pure EV with a heavy carbon tax. From the point of view of reducing how fast the world is burning fossil fuels, this is about as counter-productive as you can get. 🙁

Why there are no infos here to the Model S P100D which was leaked on teslamotorsclub ?

Joe’s case officially replied by LTA of Singapore, needless to say, nonsense and illogical.


A LTA spokesperson explained that for Mr Nguyen’s case, the car was tested under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) R101 standards. The result was that the electric energy consumption of his imported used Tesla car was 444Wh/km, she said. “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 added. So, this is the standard European R101 (NEDC test cycle). Australia regulatory emissions testing have the Tesla model S 85 at 181Wh/km, on exactly the same cycle. So have the Europeans. The NEDC test cycle is notorious for under-estimate consumption, yet here we’re seeing a figure twice that the worst of us are seeing in our cars. Bottom line is that Singapore messed up the test. My pet theory is that they probably charged the car to full, let it sit overnight, sometime the next day ran it for the 11km test, then charged it to full again… Read more »

Frankly your charging-testing scenario (if it is true) is much closer to real world scenario, especially in city-country like Singapore where a car is luxury item you don’t really need to use much. Vampire losses and charger losses should be accounted, as they are real losses. Wasn’t Tesla supposed to fix them some years ago, are they still such a big issue?

p.s. If you go to fueleconomy.gov you can find upstream emissions for all kinds of fuel, gas or electric. They can and should be accounted, but they are not that huge for gas, not double.

Charging alone does not get you to 715 Wh/m. I suspect someone did some math incorrectly. You’d have to drive like a hooligan and have pack warming issues both together to get 715 Wh/m (444 Wh/km) *average*. They’d have to have stored the Model S in a freezer, then drive it on a track to get this kind of reading for 11 km (6.8 miles).