Increasing competition, the arrival of charging stations and lower production costs will drive down the price of an electric vehicle (EV) to a more affordable 1 million baht within 3-5 years, says Yossapong Laoonual, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand.
Last week the EVAT signed a memorandum of understanding with partner associations in Asean -- the Electric Vehicle Association of Malaysia, the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines and the Electric Vehicle Association of Singapore -- to increase regional cooperation in the development of EVs in Southeast Asia.
"I am optimistic that the prices of electric cars could dip to around 1 million baht within 3-5 years," Mr Yossapong told the Bangkok Post at the International Electric Vehicle Technology Conference and Exhibition and Asean EV Summit 2019. The event took place in Bangkok last week.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) noted that EVs remain unaffordable for individual buyers in Southeast Asia.
Mr Yossapong agreed with BNEF that EVs are still beyond the reach of the general public because prices need to be closer to 1 million baht. Even so, prices are already falling because of increased competition.
For example, in 2016 there were only plug-in hybrid vehicles retailing for more than 2 million baht available in the premium segment.
By 2019, prices for Thai-made EVs range from 660,000 baht for the FOMM One to 1.2 million baht for the MINE SPA1.
For imports, prices range from 1.5 million baht for MG's ZS EV, which will be launched later this month, to 1.75 million baht for Hyundai's Ioniq Electric and 1.99 million baht for the global best-selling Nissan Leaf.
"Now there is real competition within the market," Mr Yossapong said. "If there is only one player, they will be the only one with a unique product and we cannot blame them, but once there is more competition, they will start to think about pricing and its effect on consumers."
For two- and three-wheelers, BNEF expects the former to lead the EV market in Thailand going forward, as electric motorbikes have the most registrations for EVs at the Land Transport Department.
As of 2017, the accumulated registrations of all EVs at the department stood at 1,800 units, mainly electric motorbikes, according to BNEF figures.
Mr Yossapong said the popularity for two-, three- and four-wheel EVs will arrive "at the same time" -- when the prices for EVs fall below 1 million baht.
"There are many two-wheeler players coming in from China, and more of them will come, but I still believe that the popularity for two-, three- and four-wheelers will develop alongside each other here in Thailand," he said.
The reason is that all types of EVs are on a par with each other in terms of development, compared with the earlier situation in which technology for two-wheelers often arrived much later than the innovations found in four-wheelers.
For three-wheelers, their deployment and volume is still low compared with two- and four-wheelers, leading the government to lend support to electric tuk-tuks.
Since the tuk-tuk is considered one of Thailand's icons known worldwide and is a favourite of tourists, the EVAT wants it promoted as an EV because it can easily become a symbol for the movement.
"Tuk-tuks have character, and if we are going to talk about EVs in Thailand, we need a symbol and I cannot think of a better one," Mr Yossapong said, adding that all tuk-tuks on the road are now more than 30 to 40 years old and should be upgraded with new technology to protect the environment as well.
"In Chiang Mai, there is now no need for a government subsidy and they already have 30-40 electric tuk-tuks on their streets. The government just has to promote the registration process, provide loans where tuk-tuk drivers can put 30,000 baht up front and pay 5,000 per month and they are working. No need for any subsidy."
Private use of three-wheel EVs such as the ones used at condominiums and hotels should also be promoted, as they are much easier to purchase relative to those purchased by public institutions.
Mr Yossapong urged the new government to cut the red tape within the EV promotional schemes offered by the Energy Ministry to encourage more use of three-wheel EVs by public institutions.
In addition, the new government should continue to invest in EVs for public transport such as tuk-tuks, public motorcycles and buses because the state-owned Bangkok Mass Transit Authority can lower public transport costs in the long run.
"EVs for public transport need to be developed first, so people can grasp the concept," Mr Yossapong said. "These vehicles are used by many and they stay on the road the longest, so the faster we can change them to EVs, the better it will be for the development of EVs in Thailand and for the betterment of our environment."
With regard to charging station facilities for EVs, Chatri Limpongsai, executive director of the Board of Investment, told the conference that he expects current incentives to produce more than 7,000 charging stations in the coming years.
He also revealed that several companies are planning to invest in hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric and battery vehicle production facilities, as well as EV stations, and have already submitted applications for those investment projects. The total value of investment applications in all three segments is now about US$4.7 billion.
"We have met Japanese hybrid and battery car makers," Mr Chatri said. "The European, Chinese and Thai investors are very active in investing in plug-in hybrid production with total capacity of around 84,000 vehicles and 200,000 units of batteries for electric vehicles and nearly 1,000 EV buses. The total expected capacity of lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride battery combined is more than 490,000 units. For the charging units, we expected a capacity of 7,000 charging points that could be installed in the coming years."
For the memorandum of understanding, the promises that have been made include cooperation to accelerate the development of EVs and related industries, technologies and standards; cooperation for the establishment of networks to promote EVs in the region; and encouraging the exchange of information and personnel, along with further talks regarding possible businesses for mutual benefit in Asean.
Formal associations from Myanmar and Vietnam are also looking to join the partnership in the coming years.