Thailand seen trailing electric vehicle revolution

SLOW decision especially in the digital era may mean more or less a disaster for the country, the industry and the people.  Thailand may be among those slow to adapt to the latest technology disruption in the automobile industry.

Thailand has just started to implement the so-called Thailand 4.0 development plan but its plan to accommodate the so-called electric vehicle revolution has probably been too slow.

tesla-model-xThailand has been the automobile production hub in this Asean region for decades.  Automobile manufacturers from around the world especially from Japan have been here for years, creating comprehensive automobile parts manufacturers among Thai investors and that’s the strength of the overall Thai auto industry.  The industry could be affected from the electric vehicle disruption.

Some Japanese manufacturers have divested its new investments into other countries like Indonesia and Vietnam since the great floods in the central part of the country around five years ago and lately because of the Obama plan to introduce the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, in which Thailand has not decided to join.

But when the world especially the US, China, Japan and Europe are competing vigorously to develop the electric vehicles many decision makers elsewhere may think the day when people would use electric vehicles would not emerge in the near future and the gasoline powered vehicles will continue to rule for years to come.  This may not be true and the influx of electric vehicles might be much faster than one might imagine.

In fact, the talk of the town lately has not been on the electric vehicle but already on the driverless electric vehicle.  It’s gone that far.  According to a news report on CGTN this week, experts from the US and China had been asked as to when driverless car will ply pubic roads in major cities, the US expert said in around three to four years while the Chinese said a bit later than that.

Not only does the electric vehicle threatens the traditional car industry, Japan’s Toyota has already launched the pollution free Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, one of the first such vehicles to be sold commercially since 2014. Toyota also offers other manufacturers its over 5,000 patents of technology used in Mirai for free for five years.

It has a total range of 502 km on a full tank, with a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 3.6 liter/100 km, making the Mirai the most fuel efficient hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and the one with the largest range.

Sales in Japan began in December 2014 at a price of ¥6.7 million (US$57,400). Retail sales in the US began in August 2015 at a price of US$57,500 before any government incentives.

The US responded with Tesla, the most advanced electric vehicles, the latest being driverless.

According to EV Obsession report, the US electric car sales had another record month in December last year and also again reached a record market share in the country. Fully electric and plug-in hybrid electric car sales reached 19,133 in December (and 144,455 sales for 2016 as a whole), which put EV market share among all passenger cars at a record 1.13% (and 0.82% for 2016 as a whole).

The EV market as a whole saw 30% growth for 2016 (compared to 2015) and 51% for December 2016 (compared to December 2015), which would be great for normal cars but may seem a bit weak on the surface for those who know how fast EV sales should and could be growing. But remember that 2016 was more of a prep year than a breakout year. This year (2017) and next (2018) are likely to be the big breakout years, thanks to the real arrival of the Chevy Bolt and the expected arrival of the Tesla Model 3, it reported.

In March, 2015, BYD, a Chinese car and battery manufacturer 9.9-per-cent-owned by American billionaire Warren Buffett, held a grand ceremony to announce the launch of its K9 electric bus and e6 electric sedan to the Thai market.

The event that included a test drive of its vehicles was held at the Bangkok headquarters of BYD’s Thai partner, Loxley, and was attended by hundreds of guests including senior officials from the Ministry of Industry, PTT, and other public and private organizations, as well as the Chinese Embassy.

Later in December, the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand launched its grand opening with Asst. Prof. Yossapong Laoonual being the president. The objective of this establishment is to promote more usage of electric vehicle in Thailand which will reduce pollution; especially, in big city.

The Thai government said earlier it has put in place a plan to accommodate 1.2 million electric vehicles in Thailand by 2036 and up to 1,000 charging stations to support them. A roadmap approved by the National Energy Policy Council sees the EVs introduced in three phases.

It will begin this year with 200 electric bus fleets operating by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority, The Nation reports.

“We would like electric vehicles to happen fast and hence we have come up with a clear-cut road map, because the world’s trend is moving that way,” Energy Minister General Anantaporn Kanjanara is quoted as saying. “By 2036, there will be 1.2 million EVs in Thailand. They will need at least 700, 800 or even 1,000 charging stations.”

However, 2036 is seen as a bit late by many.


Top: Tesla Model S sedan is on the wish list of many people around the world.

Inset: Tesla Model X with its Falcon Wing doors allow access to second and third row seats from even a tight parking space.

By Kowit Sanandang


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