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Motoring / Yachts

Driving Electrification in Singapore

Edward Tan of Singapore dealer Hong Seh wants to see the car industry’s electrification and eco-friendly ambitions carried over to the yachting sector.

Jun 05, 2024 | By Florence Sutton

Edward Tan has been with Hong Seh Motors since 1997. From 2000, he served as Executive Director of Hong Seh Group, his family’s business founded in Singapore in 1936. In 2008, Tan created Hong Seh Marine to diversify interests and build on a relationship with Riva since the late 1990s. The company’s new yachts portfolio now includes Ferretti Yachts, Pershing, Riva, Sunreef, Boston Whaler, Schaefer and Zodiac. Hong Seh is an official sponsor of the Singapore Sailing Federation, including for the 2024 Olympics in France.

He is an advocate of the move towards clean motor propulsion.

Riva El-Iseo

I’m the third generation of the Hong Seh family business, which was founded in Singapore in 1936. We’ve been involved in the automotive industry for a long time.

In 1982, we started car leasing, then represented Ferrari in Singapore from 1983 until 2008. We built the ‘Ferrari lifestyle’ and market in Singapore, reaching 80 units a year. We also represented Maserati from 1999 to 2018.

In 2018, we looked at electrification in the automotive industry. It was new, innovative and we loved it. It’s a different world. We found ourselves in a grey market in Singapore, bringing over Tesla cars before the brand was available here. Tesla doesn’t appoint dealers, so we leased and sold them.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla was the first mass-produced electric car brand available on the market, so we quickly learned about the electrification system. As there were a small number of electric passenger cars, we started looking at electric commercial vehicles.

When you calculate the CO2 and money saved by using electricity instead of petrol and consider the use, maintenance and life cycle of road vehicles, the number one environmental and financial saving is by electrifying commercial vans, lorries and trucks because they’re used so much, so often. Maintenance costs of electric vehicles are also lower.

Electrifying vehicles is a fantastic solution, so we want to champion the idea and affect change. Our portfolio includes DFSK, SRM and Farizon, and we’re sourcing more brands. Singapore’s electricity runs predominantly from natural gases. We don’t burn coal for our energy, so it’s a lot cleaner.

We’re working with electric cars, vans, school buses, small and large buses and lorries. We can supply an SRM T3EV electric lorry with a range of 300km, electric vans for work, an electric 19-seat bus or an electric excursion bus that can bring staff, crew, and workers and transport them anywhere within Singapore.


We also brought in a passenger bus that was on trial with the government, who are seeking tenders for electrified public buses, so we hope they like our proposals. We’ve worked with the manufacturers to adhere to the government’s standards and specifications for both the buses and charging facilities.

We’re fully behind the government’s drive for more charging stations. I think Singapore’s target for the end of this year is 12,000 electric charging stations and this number will keep growing. Singapore’s

Green Plan is for half of road vehicles to be electrified by 2030.

In fact, if we electrify all road vehicles in Singapore, it will help achieve 14 percent of the government’s overall target for decarbonisation and CO2 reductions.

Singapore can do it because we’re in a controlled environment and it’s a small island with a limited area to drive in. It’s a perfect country to implement electric vehicles.

Hong Seh’s automotive business also has a body shop and paint shop, where we can work on aluminum and steel. For vehicles, we moved into water-based paints to be more eco-friendly. I believe we were among the first in Singapore to use PPG’s pure water-based paints in our paint shop, for after-sales. That’s the automotive side of Hong Seh. We love it and we’re moving forward.

Hong Seh in Yachting

During our time working with Ferrari, we had the opportunity to work with Riva [Yacht] in the late 1990s. We considered it, as we love the water and the Italian lifestyle. We often took clients to Europe for the food, wine and automotive experience.

Riva added another luxury offering, so we gave it a shot and never looked back, setting up Hong Seh Marine in 2008 (Hong Seh Yachting was created in 2022 to focus on Ferretti Group brands). From dealing with one or two small boats a year, we’re now dealing with all sizes of yachts, even above 80m.

We love the yachting industry in Singapore. However, I believe yachting is still very young in Asia, especially in Singapore, because it’s not a big focus. Singapore, a little island surrounded by water, doesn’t utilise it as much as we should. We use it as a port more than anything else.

We’ve got fantastic islands and locations in this area. On [Peninsular] Malaysia’s east coast, we’ve got Tioman and Redang, where I love to go because the waters are amazing.

In Singapore, we have St John’s and Lazarus Islands, which the government is encouraging use of and developing nicely. I believe the government will do more to encourage the use of water. There’s also Pulau Hantu to the west and I like to go near the Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu for a little bit of quiet fishing, which has been fantastic since Covid. It’s a different lifestyle, a different feeling there.

After starting with Riva, we also began representing other Ferretti Group brands including Ferretti Yachts and Pershing, while we’ve also been selling Wally and Custom Line models in more recent years. Ferretti Group is fantastic, the quality and service is good and I think it’s the only brand that has a big office in Asia to support dealers.

In addition, they invite clients to the annual Ferretti Group Private Preview, a consumer-centric event in Monaco held in early September ahead of the Cannes Yachting Festival. Clients can see the full range of yachts in a great location and enjoy spectacular parties.

Yachting is a fantastic lifestyle to enjoy and grow. It’s a good way for friends and family to be able to live, work, play and have fun together. It brings people closer.

In normal life, people have a phone in front of their face but when you’re on a boat you put it down and take in who and what is around you. Even better, cruise to a place with no reception. People don’t talk as much as in the past and yachting is a great way to reconnect with each other.

Eco-friendly Cruising

Singapore could be a very good test bed for electric boats as most of the marinas are just a few miles from the main cruising spots. We hope the yacht manufacturers learn from the car side and battery manufacturers gradually reduce the prices of the systems.

Singapore’s MPA (Maritime & Port Authority) has already embarked on a programme to electrify its fleet of service vessels, and has selected partners to develop, operate and maintain charging points for electric harbour craft (e- HC), including at Marina South Pier, during a two-year pilot scheme that began in March.

I know ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove is looking to go ‘blue’ and will support any electric initiatives. It’s worth noting that from 2030, all new harbour craft operating in the Port of Singapore will have to be fully electric, be capable of using B100 biofuel, or be compatible with net-zero fuels such as hydrogen.

Among the brands we represent, Riva recently debuted the production version of its first all-electric boat, the El-Iseo, and the Ferretti Group is also developing hybrid models and eco-friendly technology. The Ferretti Yachts Infynito 90 has solar panels on the roof that can power the electric batteries to operate the hotel load. It allows you to be carbon-zero at anchor.

 Sunreef Eco 80

We also represent Sunreef sailing and power catamarans which have an Eco range, with ‘solar skin’, electric batteries, hydrogeneration and other fuel-saving, energy-light systems. There’s a generator for emergencies, but otherwise there’s no sound, no pollution. It’s a slower life but better for the environment. In the ultimate eco-challenge, a Sunreef Eco sailing cat is the way to do it.

We need to leave earth in the same condition or better than it is now. We need to preserve the planet for as long as we can. Having spoken to people within Elon Musk’s companies, it seems like this is one of his motivations.

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