Lack of preparation stifles EV ambition


Thailand’s ambition to develop electric vehicles (EVs) is unlikely to come to light any time soon because the domestic car market is not yet ready and its focus is still largely on conventional vehicles, says the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI).

TDRI research follow Wichsinee Wibulpolprasert said while the current government wants to generate a fleet of EVs of up to 1.2 million units and increase the number of charging stations to 690 by 2036, there no clear policies on renewable energy and the environment, which are fundamental for future automotive development.

“The number of EVs and charging stations is just the final result. What is desperately needed for Thailand’s future automotive development is a solid background and fundamentals, which are renewable energy and environmentally-friendly industry development plans,” she said.

“EVs are an upcoming technology for the world’s automobiles, but the current situation is that excise tax for eco-friendly vehicles and conventional ones still overlap, making EV retail prices unattractive for buyers.”

More importantly, the government has yet to launch any schemes to create a production hub for core components of EVs such as batteries and motors, which are the beginning level for high-tech vehicles.

At present there are four platforms of EVs. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were first developed with two systems, electricity/petrol and electricity/diesel. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were later developed, which are fuelled purely by electricity. Fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCVs) represent the latest technology.

Dr.Wichsinee added the government used to waive customs duty for related components for assembling HEVs locally during 2011-13, helping cut the retail price by 20,000 baht. This led the HEV market to improve significantly from 9,256 in 2010 to 69,911 units in 2015.

“The government should develop and stimulate demand for HEVs and PHEVs in the short run, with more tax incentives to support massive production,” Ms Wichsinee said. “BEVs and FCVs may be promoted later in a longer plan because the industry needs more technology improvement and the country still lacks the necessary infrastructure.”

Suparat Sirisuwanangkura, senior-vice president of Toyota Motor Thailand, said HEVs and PHEVs will be are much easier to develop.
As of 2015, Toyota sold a total of 54,687 HEV models in Thailand, mainly highend saloons such as the Camry and Prius, although production of its Prius was suspended at its plant in Chachoengsao.

“Toyota’s facility in Thailand has the ability to develop more HEVs in the near future,” Mr Suparat said. “But a production volume of more than 100,000 vehicles and batteries a year will be tough to achieve without government support.”

First published: Bangkok Post on Tuesday, October 4, 2016