Electrifying progress? Thailand on track to becoming EV hub of ASEAN
Government officials joined industry leaders to gauge progress in Thailand’s bid to become the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing hub of ASEAN on Friday.
Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow told the "EV Forum 2022: Move Forward to New Opportunity" that Thailand is well-equipped to keep its status as the Detroit of Asia, by gearing its large auto industry to mass manufacturing electric vehicles.
"We are the 10th biggest car producer in the world and the largest in ASEAN. This means that not only are we now playing an important role in this industry but that we can generate huge future revenues from the automobile sector," said Supattanapong, who is also deputy prime minister.
As green economics and sustainable growth become major global trends, traditional factories producing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles find themselves on the wrong side of history. Thailand and its automotive industry must now transform quickly to build a 21st-century engine of sustainable growth for the country.
Supattanapong noted the government has already launched various measures to boost domestic demand for electric cars and also lure investors and manufacturers to the EV industry in Thailand. The government’s goal is for 30 per cent of total auto production to be EVs by 2030.
He added that supporting the EV industry would also help Thailand switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
"For Thailand, the EV industry is the beginning of new and endless business opportunities, such as biofuel production, power storage technology, charger devices and smart electronics and connectivity software," said Suppatanapong.
- Raft of govt incentives
The forum also heard from Excise Department spokesman Nattakorn Utensut, who said various tax cuts have been rolled out to boost EV demand. The latest one is the cut in excise tax from 8 per cent to 2 per cent to make EV imports cheaper. The government is also offering a 150,000-baht subsidy on the purchase of an EV costing up to 200,000 baht. Both measures will last until 2025.
Accepting that these measures were only temporary, Nattakorn said the Excise department is now considering other measures to support EV demand, for example, tax incentives for EV charging stations and related businesses.
"Once we have enough required infrastructure like nationwide charging stations and EV maintenance services, I believe the EV industry will grow sustainably without needing tax measures,” he said.
The Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) pointed out that collaboration across industries was vital to the success of the country’s EV blueprint. Hence, the BOI has partnered with various organisations and companies to build the new sector.
Since 2017, BOI has launched supporting measures to develop four key EV ecosystems: production, parts, charging network, and software and applications.
BOI deputy secretary-general Narit Therdsteerasukdi explained the main focus was to attract international key players to establish research and development centres that would turn Thailand into the region’s EV hub. The BOI is also rolling out various incentives to speed up development of a nationwide EV charging network. Meanwhile, it is supporting start-ups and tech firms developing integrated software and apps for EV use.
Thailand was the first country in ASEAN to deploy an ecosystem to support the EV industry, Narit boasted.
“We will continue to issue more policies to support both demand and supply in EVs as well as training our own skilled workforce," he added.
Meanwhile, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat)’s Warit Rattanachuen explained that as Thailand’s main power provider, Egat is working on a power network to support EV charging stations across the country.
The agency has also partnered with major automakers to provide charging tools for EV drivers to use at home. Moreover, the agency is also behind pilot charging stations in government offices such as the Finance Ministry.
- Massive untapped potential
The special talk section of the forum saw five big firms present their business strategies in the EV market.
Roland Folger, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Thailand, said that all Mercedes-Benz vehicles will be fully electric from 2025 onwards.
Folger noted that only Tesla and Mercedes-Benz have pledged to fulfil the Paris Agreement on carbon neutrality, with Mercedes targeting 2039 – ahead of Thailand’s goal of 2050.
Folger added that the EQS will be the first locally produced Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) in Thailand, with domestic production launching at the end of 2022. Meanwhile, the first overseas-made EQS units have been delivered to Thai customers.
Pongsak Lertrudeewattanavong, vice president of MG Sales Thailand, said the company was focusing on the entire EV ecosystem, not just vehicles.
The MG ZS and MG EP are already on sale in Thailand, but the company plans to add other EV models that are now available in China.
The Bangkok International Motor Show in April saw EV bookings top 6,000. However, delivery of some models might be delayed due to the Covid-19 situation in China, said Pongsak.
MG has also launched the “One Station Every 150km” project to install more charging stations and boost confidence and demand for EVs.
The company has already installed around 140 stations in Thailand but does not expect to reach its initial goal of 500 as more providers have joined the market.
Meanwhile, PTT told forum participants that the energy giant aims to become a major EV ecosystem player.
PTT has invested in EV sectors including batteries, vehicles, mobility as a service, chargers, swapping stations, and service and maintenance, explained Noppadol Pinsupa, PTT’s chief New Business and Infrastructure. The aim was to strengthen the ecosystem that will support Thailand’s bid to become an international EV hub.
Amorn Sapthaweekul, Deputy CEO of Energy Absolute (EA), said the company was focused on domestic manufacture of EV buses for commercial or public use.
He explained that EV buses made in Thailand did not face the 40 per cent tax on imported EV buses and trucks.
He also boasted that EA has the fastest charging platform, able to charge any battery to 80 per cent within 15 minutes. To power its EV business, the company aims to increase capacity at its battery manufacturing plants to 4 gigawatts per hour by next year and 50GWh eventually.
Amorn said EA is also targeting production of 8,000 buses per year. It delivered 120 buses last year and set a target of up to 1,500 buses this year. He expects almost all buses in Bangkok to be EVs by the end of 2023.
Narong Sritalayon, managing director of Great Wall Motor (Thailand), said the company has been around for about a year and wants to expand its market presence. It is also happy to support Thailand’s development as the EV manufacturing hub of Asean, he added.
GWM will start assembling batteries in Thailand by the fourth quarter of 2023 and producing EVs in 2024.
The company will open 55 charging stations in 2022 in three formats – partner charging stations, G-charge supercharging stations, and destination charging stations.
He added that nine more GWM electric models will launch in the next three years, adding to the three models on sale from 2021.
Among those is the ORA Good Cat, 4,296 units of which were booked on launch day with 1,748 units already delivered.
“EV Forum 2022: Move Forward to New Opportunity” was co-sponsored by The Nation-Thailand.