The EV Story In Southeast Asia

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Before the pandemic, we went for a trip to Bali and were amazed at the frantic buzz of the roads. Going up a hill on the way back from the airport, the shuttle bus was overtaken by one after another little motorbike (sounded like 90 cc) until there were seven of them lined up between us and the far edge of the road. Heaven help them if a truck comes ’round the corner, I thought. During our stay, I was also amazed at the numbers of homes that hosted a garage repairing these same bikes — the workhorse of Asia.

But the winds of change are blowing and the sun is shining on a nascent EV revolution.

The ASEAN nations are some of Australia’s closest neighbors. They comprise Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam (and others) and have a population of around 600 million. That’s a lot of consumers for the automotive industry to satisfy. The preferred mode of transport appears to be two-wheelers, and the automakers are dominated by European subsidiaries. 

Association of Southeast Asian Nations Automotive Federation data show that “about 3.5 million passenger or commercial vehicles and 4 million motorcycles or scooters were sold annually before the pandemic,” Nikkei writes. “The region is also expected to generate 140 million new consumers by 2030, with the high- and upper-middle-income ranks doubling to 57 million, according to the World Economic Forum.”

Concerns seem to be the same as here in Australia — cost of new vehicle purchase, availability of models, and charging infrastructure. But each nation has its own plan to allay these concerns and move forward. Because of these concerns, though, most consumers prefer petrol/diesel powertrains to electric ones, as indicated in recent surveys.

On the issue of charging: “Consumers need reassurance that they can charge their cars even if they cross national borders — as easily as they can connect their smartphones to local cellular networks,” says Yossapong Laoonual, who now heads the Mobility & Vehicle Technology Research Center at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Bangkok. 

A few of the ASEAN countries have committed to phasing out fossil fuels — Thailand (the area’s largest auto manufacturer) by 2035, Singapore by 2040, and Indonesia by 2050. We have seen how that is playing out in Europe. 

Indonesia already has one of the world’s higher ratios of chargers to EVs, according to the International Energy Agency, and “has set a target of 2,400 charging stations and 10,000 battery swap stations by 2025. By 2030, it aims to have over 31,000 charging stations, as the government projects more than 2 million electric cars and 13 million electric motorbikes will hit the streets by that year.”

Thailand — the region’s largest auto production center — plans to lift output of purely electric vehicles to 50% of all car manufacturing by 2030. EVs made up well below 1% of total registered vehicles last year. That’s similar to Australia’s position. However, I would expect that Thailand’s EV uptake would move more rapidly since it has a domestic automaker and Australia is dependent on imports. 

Toyota is lobbying against government incentives to promote battery electric vehicles and warns of job losses. Its mild hybrids command a high market share. However, the Thai government is creating an EV production hub and has attracted newcomers like Great Wall Motors and Foxconn. GWM opened its first local plant in June and expects to be making EVs as early as 2023. Foxconn is planning to invest up to $2 billion to produce an EV platform. 

Expect rapid change!! 

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 719 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth