Mobile operators keen on EVs
Electric scooters and motorbikes are being exhibited at the Thailand Mobile Expo for the first time, offering a new business opportunity for mobile operators and helping to eliminate PM2.5 air pollution after cabinet approval of a tax reduction for electric vehicles.
EVs hold promise for mobile operators as the local smartphone market becomes saturated, with only 14 million units sold worth 120 billion baht in 2018.
Alexandra Reich, chief executive of Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC), said the company will expand into new business areas, in particular smart cities, smart farming and smart transport, to increase future revenue sources.
The company signed a memorandum of understanding with M Vision Plc, a coordinator between EV importers and distributors, and FSMART, the provider of Boonterm kiosks, to operate the charging kiosks for the electric scooters.
Air pollution must be addressed urgently by switching to EVs and scooters, she said. China has greatly reduced its urban air pollution thanks to the use of electric vehicles, she said.
"EVs can also help transform Thailand's automotive industry and invite new investments and technology to the industry for the environmental benefits of the country, according to the government's strategic plan to promote the use of EVs and tax incentives for EV manufacturing in Thailand," Mrs Reich said.
DTAC's EV connectivity platform connects scooters via a DTAC SIM to a smartphone application that let users pay for battery replacement costs (through DTAC or partners' monthly bills), monitor the battery status and mileage, or engage the anti-theft system and top speed limiter. Via the app, DTAC and its partners will also provide after-sales service and preventive maintenance.
DTAC and Boonterm will jointly open battery charging and replacement stations in Bangkok with 10 locations in areas of bad traffic and pollution and will increase to 350 charging stations by the end of this year.
"We are in an experimental process as the first mobile operator to enter the EV connectivity segment, which will be available in May," Mrs Reich said. "There will be more partners in the financial and insurance sectors." Another possibility to explore is EV ride-hailing, she said.
Thailand Mobile Expo is accepting pre-orders for an initial 200 electric motorbikes at a discount of 30,000 baht from 95,000 baht. DTAC is considering joint ventures or spin-offs from the business.
Pongchai Amatanon, chief executive of FSMART, said the company will provide battery charging and swapping services for electric scooters at its stations.
"There are 2 million motorbikes each year in Thailand, and some 50,000-100,000 units will be EVs," Mr Pongchai said.
Opas Cherdpunt, chief executive of M Vision Plc, said the partnership will create a new revenue opportunity.