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Tesla Model S

When Joe Nguyen imported the first Tesla Model S to Singapore he was likely hoping to receive a low emissions rebate of $14,550 for the high-powered electric car. Instead he was charged a $14,550 tax for having a car considered to be a major polluter.

"I don't get it, there are no emissions," said Nguyen in a report, according to Channel NewsAsia. Nguyen purchased the used Model S P85 in Hong Kong and imported it in July. All used cars imported to Singapore must undergo exhaust emissions testing. Seven months after the regulatory ordeal started, he was told that a private vehicle inspection provider tested the car for Singapore's Land Transport Authority (LTA) and found it consumes 444 watt hours per kilometre (Wh/km). That's the equivalent CO2 emission of 222g per kilometre.

"There is absolutely zero CO2 emissions generated by my car or any electric vehicle," he told CNBC. "The CEVS (Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme) is meant to evaluate internal combustion engines, which includes hybrids."

CEVS rebates and taxes are based on the United Nations standards on how to measure energy use. Instead of the energy consumption being measured from 'tank-to-wheel', it was measured from 'well-to-wheel'.

"This is to account for CO2 (Carbon dioxide) emissions during the electricity generation process, even if there are no tail-pipe emissions," a LTA spokeswoman told CNBC.

According to the Energy Market Authority, natural gas is used to generate about 95 per cent of Singapore's electricity.

Jean Rodriguez, chief of the information unit at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, told NewsAsia Singapore appears to have been the only national regulator to have included power grid emissions in the rating of electric vehicles and that is the correct way to do it.

Driving a Tesla Model S in Ontario would generate a much different rating. Just more than half of the electricity generated in Canada's most populous province comes from nuclear and just less than a quarter comes from hydro. In sharp contrast to Singapore, less than 15 per cent comes from gas-powered plants. Model S owners receive a $3,000 incentive in Ontario and an $8,000 incentive in Quebec.

After hearing of the news in Singapore, Tesla founder Elon Musk said he contacted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and various agencies are investigating.

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