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Meet the LTA scholar who’s driving electric vehicle adoption in Singapore

Photo Caption: Mr Ong is one of the drivers of Singapore’s EV goals at LTA.

By Mary Wu

Imagine the scene in Singapore 2040: Gone will be the diesel and petrol engines of today. In the future, it is likely that all vehicles will be powered by cleaner energy; electricity, to be exact. Instead of filling our petrol tanks at a service station, we will be plugging in our cars to charge them at a charging point.

This “transport revolution” might have seemed like a tall order five years ago, but Singapore is making headway in terms of ramping up the rate of electric vehicle (EV) adoption with the aim to phase out Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles and have all vehicles run on cleaner energy by 2040. In early 2021, the National Electric Vehicle Centre (NEVC) was set up under the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to ramp up efforts for EV adoption with a comprehensive EV roadmap in place. Under the EV roadmap, the goal is to deploy 60,000 EV charging points by 2030.

One of the drivers of Singapore’s EV goals is “financial guy” Mr Ong Lai Seng. As a deputy manager with the Electric Vehicle Masterplanning team at LTA’s Technology and Industry Development Group, the 29-year-old manages the budget and projects the financial viability of Singapore’s EV vision through various lenses: the Government, EV operators and individual EV users. His team in particular looks into the overall planning and feasibility of EV adoption and charger deployment across the island.

Says Mr Ong: “This role is not just about giving more incentives for EV and charger purchases. Other considerations include the grid electricity load, charging infrastructure, car ownership and usership costs, as well as new legislation, and so on.

“Although there are many targets to hit within a very short time, being able to shape the future of a cleaner and greener private transport sector is exciting to me!” he adds.

An “electrifying” career path

Being at the next frontier of transport is just one of Mr Ong’s many work assignments. As an LTA scholar on an LTA Undergraduate Scholarship (Full-Term), the economics major has taken on other ground-breaking roles since he joined the statutory board under the Ministry of Transport in June 2017.

During his first stint with LTA’s Bus Contracts division, his team launched the Bus Technical Specialist Certification Centre with a new certification framework. He even witnessed the pioneer batch of 19 technicians graduate in 2019 before he himself moved on to his next adventure, a rare opportunity with LTA’s Cross Border & Local Arrangements team.

“I was proud to be part of the policy team that supported the negotiations leading to the signing of the bilateral and concession agreements for the Johor Bahru – Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link project,” he shares.

As trying enough as it was, the project tested Mr Ong as the peak negotiations took place during the apex of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. Coping with extended working hours while navigating a new unseen threat, he emerged from the crisis with newfound tenacity and flexibility.

Thanks to the team’s success, the RTS Link is expected to be completed by the end of 2026, and will provide swift and smooth travel between Woodlands North MRT station in Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Mr Ong looks forward to deepening his knowledge in the urban transportation sector by pursuing a master’s in data analytics specific to the topic. Meanwhile, he is about to face his greatest challenge yet – welcoming his first child into this brave new world which he has had a hand in shaping.

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