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Krisda Utamote, President of the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand (EVAT)
The Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand (EVAT) is one of the major organisations that are promoting the use of electric vehicles (EVs) in Thailand. EVAT’s ultimate goal includes the reduction of road pollution, especially in major cities, and EV deployment to improve energy efficiency in the mass transportation sector. EVAT support includes industrial manufacturing and the research and development of EV technology in Thailand. In an exclusive UPDATE interview with EVAT President, Mr. Krisda Utamote explained EVAT’s key activities and the prospects of the EV industry in Thailand.
Since EVAT’s establishment in 2015, what is the key mission and scope of the activities?
EVAT was founded by its former president, Dr. Yossapong Laoonual, Associate Professor at King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT). The aim is to find a way to reduce air pollution, especially PM 2.5, and improve energy efficiency in Thailand’s transport sector by replacing internal combustion engine (ICE) cars with EVs. EVAT supports EV industrial manufacturing, research and development (R&D). We are part of the National EV Policy Committee.
People from the academic and industrial sectors have joined us and now we have more than 280 members. Our 30 committee members are divided into a research and development division, academic division, industry division and user support division. The industry division is divided into four working groups covering: production and manufacturing policy; generalisation and overall regulations development; user support policy; and public relations and user information. As EVAT is a non-profit organisation, the working groups are not paid for their work. They willingly work for the good of society.
What has EVAT accomplished in accordance with the government’s policy to promote the EV industry in Thailand?
We have engaged in a number of activities to promote EVs and clean energy. EVAT continues to work and participate in international cooperation with electric vehicle associations in various countries under the Asian Federation of Electric Vehicle Association (AFEVA), which includes the Association of Electric Vehicles Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. Thailand has co-operated on several projects. In addition, EVAT also joined the Electric Vehicle Association of Asia Pacific (EVAAP), which is an international organisation, acting to promote the development and use of electric and hybrid vehicles in the Asia and Pacific region. Furthermore, EVAT has also signed an agreement on sharing information, technology, and the development of electric vehicles between Thailand and South Korea to enhance the exchange of knowledge and technology between the two countries. As for the field of technical co-operation, EVAT has had representatives attend lectures and seminars on the topic of electric vehicles on various webinar platforms — both domestically and internationally — as well as initiate a project to modify electric motorcycles in vocational schools, with support from the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO) for this activity.
EVAT also supports the government with information on how to procure EVs for its agencies and enterprises by providing them with a standard list and different prices. We had a meeting in August last year with the Office of Industrial Economics (OIE) and the Budget Division to support key considerations for setting the criteria for procurement of EVs by comparing vehicle horse power and design. EVs have been included in the standard list of procurement for government agencies in December last year.
Last year, we provided our advice and support to education institutions TOR preparation with local contents for the future procurement of electric buses. We met with different companies for informational support on IT security and discussed with the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organisation (TGO) on collaboration.
We also present awards such as the E-Visionary Awards 2020 in which Bangkok was one of the recipients. We have held many meetings with embassies as well as political parties such as the Democrats and Future Forward on how to promote the EV industry in Thailand. We share information with other stakeholders and people involved in EV policy development.
What is the work in progress?
I would like to mention two projects in particular. One is the so-called "Charging Consortium" to enhance the battery charging network infrastructure in Thailand. We aim to support users who are a member of one brand to be able to use other brands in the changing station network.
The current number of EV charging stations in Thailand presents quite a challenge. The number of publicly available charging sockets is about 2,177 nationwide. The biggest provider is Energy Absolute (EA) with approximately 1,633 charging sockets. The other providers include Charge Now, PTT, MEA, PEA and EGAT, among others. Therefore, we have formed the “Charging Consortium by EVAT” and invited our 11 partners who provide the charging station infrastructure to join the network.
The second part of the project, initiated by EVAT, is still in the testing phase with our partners. We are now testing data transfers between stations and by the year-end we should be able to test the billing and payment settlement for the local network. We hope that with the completion of Thailand’s consortium network, we will be able to expand the network to other neighbouring Southeast Asian countries in the future.
What EV technology research and development in Thailand has EVAT been supporting?
EVAT has also signed a memorandum of co-operation in 2020 with the Thailand Energy Storage Technology Association (TESTA) together with the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), Khon Kaen University (KKU), King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) and King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok (KMUTNB) to initiate a network of operations in the development of Thai energy storage technology throughout the value chain, which will further enhance Thailand's knowledge on energy storage from the national researchers, and will be able to create various kinds of technology conducive to the use of electric vehicles as well.
What is your main challenge as EVAT President?
There are many dimensions within the ecosystem of electric mobility, ranging from batteries, the transformation from ICE to EV for components suppliers, the charging infrastructure network to working with the government on many standardisations for the production of electric cars, motorcycles and tuk-tuks. The challenge comprises many elements which include input to the electric mobility ecosystem; therefore, we need experts from different fields to advise and work with stakeholders. However, EVAT has many people who have knowledge of these fields, so we always try to give the best advice for the development of EVs in Thailand.
Where are we now with the development of the EV industry in Thailand?
If we compare the annual production of automobiles in Thailand to other Southeast Asian countries, Thailand has the highest automotive production at about 1.4 million in 2020. The share covers some hybrid and some plug-in hybrid vehicles in Thailand.
Comparing the automotive production & battery electric vehicle (BEV) registration in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is the highest registration with about 12,000 EVs of all types, mostly two-wheelers. Thailand has greater registration in terms of four-wheelers. Total registrations of EVs of all types in Thailand is now about 5,600 EVs, which is still higher when compared to other countries in Southeast Asia
The National EV Policy Committee has set a target of a 50 per cent in Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) registrations by 2030 and 100 per cent of ZEV by 2035. This timeline of Thailand is similar to that in Singapore and a number of other nations around the world.
The total accumulative number of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle registrations in Thailand is more than 200,000 cars; while the number of accumulative battery EVs (BEVs) of all types was 7,250 units as of April this year. In terms of vehicle types, in 2020 about 2,999 electric vehicles were registered, representing about 90% increase year-on-year. The annual registration figure in 2020 consists of 1,290 BEV cars and buses, 1,591 electric motorcycles, and 118 electric tuk-tuks. In the first four months of 2021, about 1,677 BEVs of all types were registered thus registration statistics of EVs in Thailand is increasing rapidly.
Who are the main EV players in the Thai market – local manufacturers or importers?
There are quite a number of car companies in Thailand that are from Europe, Japan, the Republic of Korea and China. Thailand also imports from Europe for which there is an import duty of 80 per cent. China has a Free trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN countries that covers the 0% import of EV passenger cars by Thailand, which enables purchasing at affordable prices.
We are going to see a strong mass market with models available at below 1 million baht from manufacturers such as Great Wall Motors (GWM) and MG. I believe Chinese car-makers will be in quite a strong position in the Thai EV mass market.
How can German car-makers contribute to the growth of Thailand’s EV industry?
Education and training is an area in which we particularly want to utilise collaboration. For example, BMW co-operated with GTCC in the German-Thai Dual Excellence Education programme (GTDEE). It is a vocational education and training programme that will begin to provide learning in EV related mechatronics within the coming years to prepare our human resources. We would like to include more foundation courses on the electrical components & systems because in the past focus has been on the ICE car engines. However, we now need to focus more on training in EV and EV component production.
How can Thailand enhance its strengths and competitiveness to become the EV hub in ASEAN/Asia?
There are quite a number of the things that we have to prepare for. In 2019, Thailand was ranked eleventh in the world in terms of vehicle production that was comprised mainly of ICE cars. Now we need to prepare our parts suppliers to ensure sufficient local sources of EV components. Those who supply ICE vehicle parts may also find new opportunities to supply EVs components. The local parts suppliers may not currently produce key EV components at the moment, but their capability can be developed. For example, we are only in the beginning phase to start producing produce lithium-ion battery cells by a few local manufacturers. However, we should see further developments as we have seen with GPSC which has already started producing batteries.
We also do not have supplies for the control unit of EVs yet. The transition from being an ICE parts supplier to an EV parts supplier is a challenge. As the government’s target is to accumulate at least 2 million EV units until 2030, we would like to promote the establishment of EV components suppliers.
What is the trend in EVs at the global and regional levels?
The EV trend is highly positive in coming years. The number of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will start to grow gradually while ICE vehicles will start to decline year by year. The battery electric vehicles (BEVs) sales in Europe is expected to reach 50% in 2030. For fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), even though it is currently not popular because of the high investment costs of hydrogen fueling stations, we will probably see an eventual increase in the FCEV production lineup.
We are starting to see a growing trend in the installation of ultra-fast charging stations with up to 350kW along the highway similar to the network of IONITY charging stations on the autobahn in Germany and in European countries. I believe that we will see such a trend in Thailand when the investment for ultra-fast charging stations becomes practical.
Interview by Chadaphan Maliphan, GTCC Publications and Communications Manager
“The challenge comprises many elements which include input to the electric mobility ecosystem; therefore, we need experts from different fields to advise and work with stakeholders.”
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