By Ramesh Narasimhan
Special to The Nation
Thailand’s future mobility ecosystem is a topic that Nissan is hugely passionate about. Currently, the Kingdom’s goal is to put 1.2 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2036, and the government has expressed support for green transport to address rising emissions, traffic congestion and noise pollution. After more than two decades in this region, I have witnessed the impact urbanisation has had on the environment and health. And the question remains, what can we or should we do about it?
To address this, Nissan commissioned research firm Frost & Sullivan in March this year to develop a whitepaper to help examine the evolving role of mobility in future cities across Asia and Oceania. The report showed that Bangkok ranks comparatively well in areas such as the New Mobility Solutions Index and the Smart City Outlook Index (scoring 3.5 and 5 respectively in the region). However, transportation in Bangkok has yet to reach “Smart Mobility” standing under Frost & Sullivan’s definition. This is due to the congestion, which adds an extra 61 per cent of commuting time for travellers; and mounting pollution concerns.
A commitment to transform the way we live and drive
With such challenges, my new role as president is to find new opportunities and lead Nissan’s commitment to Thailand’s sustainable mobility evolution, using technology and innovations. Under Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility vision, we aim to transform the way people drive and live in Thailand, and we believe electric vehicles represent a solution to some of the challenges posed by rapid urbanisation.
One challenge gaining particular prominence, is noise pollution, which is a rising health issue, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Long-term exposure to high environmental noise levels such as traffic, above 53 decibels (dB), can result in adverse health effects, including raised blood pressure and even heart attacks.
Regrettably, Bangkok, along with other major cities in Asia Pacific, including Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Manila, Melbourne, Singapore and Seoul, produce an ear piercing 76dB on average – almost four times louder than the WHO’s recommended noise levels.
Fortunately, people in Thailand are taking note. According to research funded by the Thailand Research Fund in 2018, more than half of all public complaints lodged were noise or traffic related. The United Nations has forecast that Thai urbanisation will reach 60.4 per cent by 2025, while the overlap in traffic and noise will increasingly become a burden on society.
Hence, in a move to creatively educate Thai consumers on this growing health concern, Nissan has measured and compared the sound levels of a standard Bangkok street, to a street with the sounds of a 100 per cent electric vehicle, the Nissan LEAF, using a sound level meter.
The results showed noise levels on the standard street in city centre peaking at above 90dB, compared to the serene hum of a Nissan LEAF passing by at 21dB.
Partnerships are key to Thailand’s smart, electric and prosperous future
There is also a wave of interest in EVs, with one in three Southeast Asian consumers open to buying an electric car – according to Frost & Sullivan. And Nissan is the first mass automobile manufacturer to offer a fully EV vehicle in 2010 – the zero-emission Nissan LEAF. Nearly a decade later, the Nissan LEAF still stands as the best-selling EV globally today, with more than 410,000 vehicles sold worldwide.
Thailand has now joined this EV trend, with the recent launch of the Nissan LEAF and 32 dealerships nationwide selling the model and offering service and charging support – one of the many ways Nissan is helping drive the country’s electrification goal. This is crucial as Thai EV drivers are not just limited to major metropolitan cities – underscored by the fact that more than 20 per cent of Nissan LEAF deliveries to date have been outside of main urban centres.
Our ability to offer the Nissan LEAF so broadly is due in part to key partnerships with government organisations like the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, Provincial Electricity Authority and private companies like Delta Electronics, a global power supply producer, who are helping electric vehicle drivers access charging solutions at home, at work and on the road.
The strength of these partnerships has the ability to transform the role of vehicle ownership in the future, with the introduction of new technologies that will allow EVs to serve as mobile power suppliers to feed energy back to consumers, homes, businesses or even the grid.
In bolstering this EV ecosystem, I am proud to be working on the front lines of this new era of mobility, and the opportunities this represents for Thailand. If the current momentum in building the EV ecosystem via public-private partnerships continues, Thailand is set to become a leader in the region during this new chapter of mobility, demonstrating how this technology can improve the well-being of citizens against the challenges of urbanisation through a host of benefits, including reduced noise and air pollution.
For me, building the future we hope for ourselves today and for generations to come, motivates me to work every day to advance our future mobility, one that is indeed smart, electric and good for everyone.
Ramesh Narasimhan is the president of Nissan Motor Thailand.