Meet The First Tesla Model S Owner In Singapore (Featuring Joe Nguyen)

Earlier this month, Tesla launched the Model 3 on their sales portal for the Singaporean market. But that wasn’t the first Tesla that has landed on our shores. The Model S is Tesla’s first mass-market sedan, and we’ve had our first in-depth look at it just last week.

To find out what living with a Tesla entails, we’ve interviewed the very first owner of the Tesla Model S in Singapore, Mr Joe Nguyen. A few years back, the LTA slapped his Model S with a $15,000 surcharge under the older Carbon Emissions Vehicle Scheme. But that hasn’t swayed his stance on EVs one bit. It has in fact it bolstered it.

What inspired you to buy a Tesla Model S?

Honestly, I’m a gadget guy. Yes, it’s a transportation device, but it’s also a gadget. And I’ve always had the first iPhone, and all that kind of stuff. When it came to cars, they were always kind of boring. It’s always the same, I mean sure of course unless you get a Lamborghini or something like that.

It’s all internal combustion engines, a steering wheel, with a transmission, all that kind of stuff. But electric drive, that’s interesting. It’s not new, there have been electric cars for many years even before then, but they just never picked up.

But Tesla, when I test drove it, it was that interface of software integrated into the drive all the way to the wheel.  And the ability to control every little thing from that 17-inch screen and the app. Like the ability to take my phone and turn on the air-con before I get in.

It gets me around, but it’s a fun way to get me around.

So I understand you bought the car in Hong Kong, what was the process of bringing the car into Singapore like?

Back then, it was brought in as a second-hand car. So, I never thought I would be the first because other people would just buy and bring it in. Richer people, who could just bring it in and get it registered new. I just took my time, I just looked for one, and I got a second-hand one.

And the process to bring in a second-hand car is very different from bringing in a new car. For new cars, you need a homologation certificate, which tesla does not provide. So those people that tried to bring in new ones just hit that wall, so they couldn’t get it in.

Whereas a second-hand car, you don’t need a homologation certificate. If it has been in a country where it has been approved, like Hong Kong, you don’t need that certificate. But you need certain tests, you need certain things. There’s a lot more testing, and then once you pass the test, ok you’re on. And that took 7 months. But I just didn’t give up and I slowly went through the processes.

So about those processes, I understand back then you had to pay a $15,000 surcharge based on the old Carbon Emissions Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) back then. Did you ever get your money back?

No, no, it was… yeah let’s not go there. *chuckles*

No, I never did. The second Tesla that came in, within 6 months later, actually got a $20,000 rebate. I actually advised the owner how to get it in, because he did it the same way, getting a second hand one from Hong Kong. So, I told him what to do, and what documentation he needed, all that kind of stuff. And it went through in probably 2 or 3 months. It was very quick. And he got the rebate. So he owes me a lot of whiskey.

How do you go about charging your car at home?

The car actually came with a wall charger, the Tesla wall charger. And that has a higher rating than the normal mobile charger that comes with the car, which you just plug into any outlet. That charges at, essentially what the outlet outputs, which is 220 volts at 10 amps.

That’s, slow. It charges roughly 10 kilometres of range per hour. The wall charger can go up to 32 amps, so it would charge 32 kilometres of range within an hour.

How much does it cost to charge your car?

The cost of electricity has actually gone down more recently after they opened up to the other service providers. So currently at home, I pay $0.17 cents per kilowatt.

Publicly, you pay anywhere from $0.40 to $0.55 cents per kilowatt. Depending on which provider you use, whether its BlueSG or greenlots, or how their deal is with the merchant. Because some malls could actually say “okay we can pay for a portion of that”. So, it depends. There’s a range, but at home it’s much cheaper.

On average, how much range do you get for a full charge?

So in all EVs, there is the ideal range, then there’s the actual typical range. In my car, the ideal range with 100% charge is 450km. Typically, I would say it would be 350km. But just like a petrol-powered car, if you accelerate a lot, you’ll burn up more petrol. If you accelerate a lot in an EV, you’re going to take up more juice as well.

What’s it like living with a Tesla? The maintenance costs, day to day driving experience, and range anxiety?

Well, it’s my daily driver. It’s a fun car and I enjoy driving it. I don’t have range anxiety for myself because I charge at home. If I forget it one day, it’s fine because the battery lasts more than one day. So, I don’t have that range anxiety.

But I think a lot of people who live in HDBs, condos, unless they have a charger downstairs in the basement, then they’ll have a concern. And then they’ll have to use public charging stations.

Maintenance wise, electric cars in general have less moving parts. A lot less. So, there’s no transmission fluid to change, no oil to change. The brakes are interesting. Because I don’t use the brakes often. Tesla has this thing called single-pedal driving, so it has very aggressive regenerative braking. Once you lift your foot up, it just slows down. I don’t need to touch the brake pedal until I’m ready to stop. But 60,000km I haven’t had to change my brake pads.

But I’ve had to change my tyres a few times.

How would you recommend an EV for prospective buyers?

Well, the new government stuff with the rebates, that’s pretty good, right? The $45,000 worth of rebates. And now with the lower ARF barrier, the floor has been reduced to $0. So obviously there’s a cost saving.

The new Tesla Model 3 starts, before COE at like $113,000? And that’s Accord or Camry money. So, if you’re in the market, just go look. Test.

Would you recommend the Tesla Model 3?

Yes, I think everyone should have a look at their choices and what they want, what their budgets are, and what they need.

Now the Model 3 is a smaller car. More similar to a 3-Series BMW, it’s a smaller sedan. Depends on what needs, your requirements are. And if you may find that it doesn’t meet your needs, or if you can’t get a Model 3 but if you still like electric, you could get Ioniq or a Leaf. Maybe even a NIO or a BYD. So, I’d say have a look.

If you can sum up the Tesla Model S in five words, what would they be?

“Best gadget ever. Full stop.”

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