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Japan firm seeks Thai partner for electric-vehicle production

May 21. 2015
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By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation

FOMM eyes joint investment in $10m facility; foresees Kingdom becoming hub for EV exports
Japanese auto-tech pioneer FOMM Corp is seeking a local partner for joint investment in establishing an electric-vehicle (EV) manufacturing plant in Thailand, with the aim of making the country a hub for EV exports to Europe.
Hideo Tsurumaki, chief executive officer of FOMM – whose name is an acronym of ‘First One Mile Mobility’ – said the company had spent a year in researching and developing the second edition of its electric vehicle, code-named the FOMM Compact EV.
A prototype has now been developed, and FOMM is now seeking a Thai partner for joint investment in setting up a production plant in the Kingdom, he explained.
The move will assist Thailand in becoming a hub for the manufacture and development of electric-vehicle technology, he added. 
FOMM, which will also transfer as much technology as possible for the local production of auto parts, has requested a special tax-exemption package for its Thai manufacturing plans.
“Our aim is to have production of the FOMM Compact EV [under our technology] in Thailand, using mostly local parts. It is necessary to manufacture electric vehicles in Thailand in order to make the country a hub for such vehicles,” said Tsurumaki.
EV technology is well-suited for compact cars, and there is a European Union standard – the L7e – for such vehicles.
The current global market size for compact vehicles is 830,000 units, but this is expected to reach 1.83 million units in the next five years, rising to 3.62 million within 10 years if all such cars were by then EVs, and not petrol-driven vehicles, he said.
“The FOMM Compact EV is designed to comply with the European EV standard, the L7e. Once the L7e standard is enacted in Thailand and with the forecast market size, Thailand could take this opportunity to produce electric vehicles for export to the EU market,” said the CEO.
Tsurumaki said the planned plant, which would require an investment of US$10 million (Bt335 million), would assemble the vehicle in accordance with FOMM’s specifications.
The goal is to commercially launch the compact EV to the market early in 2017, he said, adding that production capacity in the first year would be 5,000 units, rising to 15,000 and eventually 20,000 vehicles in later years.
“We expect to get a partner by October this year, while we are working on improving the prototype into the third edition, which is expected to come out late this year,” said Tsurumaki.
He also said one of the main issues in EV business remained how to maximise a vehicle’s battery potential.
FOMM intends to complete its “Battery Cloud” project by 2017 before mass-production starts, and would like to work closely with Thailand Science Park on this matter, he explained.
“It is most likely the Japanese government will support FOMM, and we expect the Thai government will support us too in terms of financing the project,” said the chief executive.
Meanwhile, Yongvut Saowapruk, governor of the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research, said the Kingdom had the ninth-largest production volume in the global automotive industry, with an annual output of nearly 2.45 million vehicles.
Vehicles are produced and licensed by world-leading auto-makers, including 12 car producers and six motorcycle manufacturers.
“Thailand has become one of the key production bases among global players from Japan, the US and Europe,” said Yongvut.
Public EV-charging stations in Thailand currently include six PTT stations in greater Bangkok and 10 quick-charge Metropolitan Electricity Authority stations deployed around the capital.
Under the Industry Ministry’s national industrial development master plan, Thailand will become a quality Asia-Pacific production base, with a focus on 1-tonne pickups, high-efficiency light-duty vehicles, motorcycles and auto parts.
Loxley imports Chinese-made EVs
Meanwhile, Loxley recently joined hands with Chinese battery and EV-maker BYD Auto Industry to import electric public-transportation vehicles and passenger cars to the Thai market.
The first two models to be launched under the collaboration are BYD’s K9 electric bus and e6 electric passenger car. 
Kosol Surakamol, an adviser to Loxley, said the company had studied EV development for some time, and was now convinced the Thai market was ready for the use of such vehicles.
EVs do not bring about air pollution and help save energy, resulting in decreasing imports of fuel, he said.
Moreover, they have lower maintenance costs when compared to fossil-fuel-consuming vehicles, while the batteries are reusable after the minimum-use period of 15 years, such as in the form of spare batteries, he explained.
The sales target for the BYD models in the first year is 400 units, split evenly between the two models, with target customers being government and private organisations.
Loxley also plans to establish the first production base for electric transportation in Thailand, said Kosol.
“The target group, at the initial stage, will be government and private organisations. Potential customers for electric buses include government agencies, state enterprises, schools and universities, while customers for electric cars include government agencies, state enterprises, rental-car companies, metered taxis and hotels,” he added.
In the early stages, the company will work with its alliance partners to establish five central and subsidiary service centres in Bangkok and surrounding areas for the Chinese-made vehicles.
Meanwhile, charging stations will be set up in areas with sufficient clients or service providers.
There is also a plan to expand the central charging stations in greater Bangkok to meet rising EV demand.
“The company [Loxley] believes the current government’s policy to promote the use of electric cars will boost sales to achieve continuous growth in the first few years. Particularly, it is expected that electric buses will be very well accepted. Therefore, it is possible to launch other models. 
In addition, the company has a future plan to invest in establishing electric-bus manufacturing to meet domestic market growth,” said Kosol.
Loxley will introduce BYD’s electric buses to the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority to provide an initial service lasting almost a month, starting in June.

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