Kwaithong keen on EV bus market
Thai-owned Kwaithong Motor Co is eager to enter the electric vehicle (EV) market with the launch of its first electric-powered bus, to be assembled locally.
The company yesterday showed off the first prototype for the electric bus under the Kwaithong brand, which was imported from China. It also signed a 3-billion baht contract to sell 200 electric buses to Wangsakankij Co, a local suburban transit operator.
The prototype bus uses EV technology from the US and China boasting a 15-minute charging time for a 50-kilometre drive, along with a 12-year battery life.
Kwaithong chief executive Zhang Kwaithong said that the company would hire a Chinese bus and coach assembler, Zhuhai Guangtong Holdings Co, to be an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for Kwaithong electric buses.
Zhuhai Guangtong Holdings will soon set up an assembly plant in Rojana Industrial Park, Ayutthaya with an initial investment of 100 million baht, excluding the land cost, Mr Zhang said.
Construction of the OEM assembly plant must be completed soon as Kwaithong needs to deliver the fleet of electric buses to Wangsakankij over the next three months, he said.
"The buses will be equipped primarily (80%) with imported parts, and the rest will be locally sourced," Mr Zhang said.
The import duty on bus parts is 20%, which is lower than that for completely imported buses, which now face a now 47% levy.
Founded in 2009 by Mr Zhang, Kwaithong Motor Co is a subsidiary of Jiali Thailand Co, a distributor of Chinese-made agricultural equipment under the Kwaithong brand.
Kwaithong announced it would invest in EVs in 2015, although plans for the five billion baht local manufacturing plant were put off until the following year.
But the company's ambitious plan to make EVs remains unchanged, and it now has three EVs supplying the Thai market: three-wheel motorcycles, tuk-tuks and buses.
Mr Zhang said the company would not make the EVs by itself, but it will put their focus on building up the Kwaithong brand and raising awareness of EVs among Thai consumers.
After securing its first customer for Kwaithong buses, Mr Zhang plans to seek more customers to buy the coaches, including corporate clients and government agencies.
Moreover, he plans to propose the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority purchase electric buses with 10-year management contracts.
"I expect Kwaithong bus sales to grow by 20% next year," Mr Zhang said.