Just as growing environmental awareness and advancing EV technology have driven a surprising increase in global EV sales, these same factors have also significantly increased Thai car users’ enthusiasm for switching to EVs.
Their growing confidence in the long-term advantages of EVs combined with their environmental consciousness have seen EV sales in Thailand continuing to grow in 2020, on the back of flourishing investment by both Thai and local investors. With a solid development path for the local EV industry, Thailand’s EV market is firmly set on an accelerated growth trajectory over the next few years.
According to the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand (EVAT), the use of all forms of EVs, including motorcycles, 3-wheelers, passenger cars, buses and trucks-rose by 70% from the previous two years, bringing the total number of EVs1 on Thailand’s roads to 192,000 units at the end of 2020. Of the 35,300 new EVs registered in 2020, the overwhelming majority of 32,300 units were PHEVs and HEVs. While just 3,000 units were BEVs. In terms of usage purposes, passenger cars accounted for the majority of the newly registered EVs, followed by motorcycles. It is also worth noting that the 3,000 new BEVs on Thailand’s roads in 2020 was double the number for 20192.
The Thai government’s National Electric Vehicle Policy Committee targets having EVs account for 30% of all car sales in Thailand by 2030, which equates to 750,000 out of 2.5 million cars manufactured. Taking steps towards reaching that goal, the Committee expects between 60,000 and 110,000 new EVs to be added to the road over the next couple of years, and 250,000 Eco EVs and 3,000 smart city buses to be in the market over the next five years.
The Committee’s target will see Thailand having a total of 1.2 million EVs on the road by 2030, with the number doubling to 2.5 million EVs on the road within the following six years. This outlook cements Thailand’s position as a significant EV investment hub in ASEAN and will enable the country to meet its targets for greenhouse gas reductions and the development of its BEV ecosystem.
Public Fleet Conversion to EVs Boosts Local Ecosystem
To jump start the adoption of BEV technology, state-enterprises, academic institutes, government agencies and automotive industry associations have taken a leading role in targeting BEV procurement and use in public mass transit.
Among their initiatives of promoting EV capacity building, they have collaborated in a contest to facilitate the conversion of traditional combustion buses to electric city transit buses3. From the design plans that were submitted for the contest, four local companies were selected, with each receiving a grant and retired buses from Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) to be developed into an E-bus prototype. The selected prototypes use 40%-60% local content and have a capacity to travel at a speed of 80-90 km per hour for a distance of 160-250 km on a single charge. The modifications will cost the BMTA $230,000 per bus, compared to the cost of $400,000-$460,000 for importing new E-buses.
In a related development, Thailand’s Ministry of Transport has facilitated battery-driven ferry boats to offer services along the Chao Phraya River and Bangkok’s main canals to reduce urban pollution as ferry boats are also a popular transportation mode for residents.
Upgrading to Game-Changing Battery Technology
The Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, EVAT and a number of science and engineering academic institutions have recently joined forces to form the Thailand Energy Storage Technology Alliance (TESTA) with the common aim of driving progress in local energy storage technology, which is key for electric transportation and a clean energy industry ecosystem4. TESTA’s key approaches are creating a collaborative platform and network as well as ensuring that R&D, especially on Lithium-ion batteries, is fully commercialized.
As a well-established automotive hub in ASEAN, Thailand benefits from the in-depth knowhow of many qualified academies and international business associations collaborating on the study of EV technology. These collaborations not only increase the competencies of students and their readiness to serve enterprises but also create new local industries through new innovations. Academies such as Khon Kaen University, King Mongkut’s University of Technology and Sirindhorn International Thai-German Graduate School of Engineering (TGGS) are well-known in the industry. These academies engage in collaborative programs with international experts such as RWTH Aachen University of Germany and the Joint Graduate School of Energy and Environment (JGSEE) program to produce a high quality workforce for the industry comprised of MSc. and Ph.D. graduates.
The Ministry of Industry is also working with research institutes and the private sector to promote the production and use of electric vehicles in the country, including end-of-life battery systems.
Ensuring Convenient Access to Power Sources
To support the transition to EV usage, the Ministry of Industry has ensured that EV car users will have convenient access to public charging stations across the country with the individual charging stations being located no more than a 50-70 kilometres’ radius from one another. To stimulate development in the charging business, three state enterprises, namely the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) and the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), have collaborated to pioneer investment in both home-based and public EV charging facilities and services.
Under a comprehensive energy investment plan to prepare for the mainstream use of EVs for personal transportation, Thailand aims to develop a Smart Grid and smart EV charging system as well as implementing a “vehicle to grid” (V2G) electricity system to ensure more efficient power distribution to support EV usage.
EGAT, MEA and PEA have formed a consortium with PTT Plc to develop a prototype for V2G. Using a cloud-based platform, the system compiles the charging profiles and activities of EVs at electricity distributers’ servers to ensure the country’s electricity load profile matches the usage profile at usage time.
Thailand’s national energy plan for the EV industry aims to regulate electricity fees based on a time of use rate, thereby promoting competition among charging business and facilitating a mix of renewable energy supplies such as roof-top solar cells as an energy source. The plan targets the adoption of smart grid technology which analyses EV charging data and the country’s usage to manage the efficiency of electricity transmission. The Ministry of Energy has also adjusted the country’s power development plan to increase the energy generation capacity in preparation for the anticipated higher demand. EGAT5 projects an increase of around 9% of electricity usage in Thailand if around 1.5 million BEVs and 800,000 PHEVs are in use by 2036.
Following brisk investment from both the public and private sectors, data from EVAT shows that Thailand had around 2,000 chargers and 650 charging stations from 10 developers countrywide at the end of 2020. Of this total, three in five are normal chargers while the remainder are quick chargers. The Ministry of Energy has regulated EV charging rates to ensure cost worthiness, while charging station developers are offering mobile EV charging station applications to provide charging station maps and estimated remaining fuel amounts as part of the drive to facilitate the countrywide adoption of EVs.
The opportunities in the development of charging stations also attracted investment from many start-ups in the green energy sector for the sale and installation of home-based charging units and charging systems for residential and commercial areas. Some of these start-ups have partnered with big international EV equipment brands while others have focused on importing chargers from smaller brands. However, most of these companies tend to use online tools to promote their services, with a few expanding their networks of dealerships across the country.