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BMW iX. Image courtesy of BMW.

Clean Transport

EVs Play Big Roles As Official Cars At 2023 ASEAN Summit

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To push the EV agenda at the recently concluded ASEAN Summit 2023 at Labuan Bajo in Indonesia, organizers made sure there were no ICE vehicles used by the delegates, their staff, and visitors.

Indonesia news outlet Antara reported last May 10 that there were a total of 395 electric cars, which included 13 BMW iX, Toyota bZ4X, and Hyundai IONIQ 5, as well as 50 Wuling EVs and 90 US-made Zero electric motorcycles.

Secretary of the Ministry of State Secretariat Setya Utama (right) talks with President Director of BMW Group Indonesia Ramesh Divyanathan at handover ceremony of 13 BMW iX as the official vehicle for heads of state at the 2023 ASEAN Summit. Photo from Antara by Akbar Nugroho Gumay.

The presence of BMW, Hyundai, and Toyota also were indicative of the brands’ desire to be present in Indonesia, which is the biggest car market in the ASEAN, selling about a million cars a year — more before the pandemic, but slowly getting back on track. Indonesia is a difficult market to sell EVs to as the price of fuel is so low, the lack of adequate charging infrastructure, and the country’s horrendous traffic problem all lead to range anxiety.

Modified For Security

Ten leaders of the ASEAN member states went to Indonesia for the summit amid heightened tensions due to conflicts in Myanmar. Security was tightened and and alert levels raised. Assistant Logistics for the Indonesian Presidential Guard Lieutenant Colonel Infantry Fanny Pantouw told Antara News that “some of the electric vehicles used by the delegates were slightly upgraded on the interior and exterior to increase security,” and that the upgrades were to “military specs to improve security and operational tactics in the field.”

According to the report, the upgrade is in accordance with military standards for the protection of heads of state and state guests. It wasn’t clear if this meant bulletproofing the windows and Kevlar door shields.

The vehicles used by the delegates modified for security were the BMW iXs. Auxiliary vehicles used by the ASEAN staff were comprised of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 which were also updated, while the bZ4X were deployed with the security staff.

Small Footprint SUVs

Checking a Wuling EV Air before release. Photo from Wuling Motors Indonesia.

Chinese automaker Wuling delivered 50 units of the Air EV, an already popular small EV in Indonesia. It has so far sold over 8,000 vehicles in the island country, but not just concentrated in the main cities of Jakarta. The Air is everywhere in the country, functioning as vehicles for small families, registered as tourist cars, and used as taxis.

The Air EV was introduced in Indonesia 2 days before it was formally launched in China on June 3, 2022. One month after launch, Wuling Motors Indonesia plant (SGMW Motor Indonesia) in West Java commenced assembly of the car for right-hand drive markets in the ASEAN. Sales, however, was focused on the local market.

The Air EV was also used initially in limited numbers at the G20 Summit held in Bali, Indonesia, last year.

Secretary of the Ministry of State Secretariat Setya Utama thanked Wuling’s participation in the 2023 ASEAN Summit.

“Thank you for Wuling’s support because this will be an important part of the 2023 ASEAN Summit,” Utama said in a press release. He also affirmed that the Summit was a showcase to Indonesia’s commitment towards clean energy.

For his part, Shi Guoyong, President Director of Wuling Motors in China, said that “this step is also our concrete manifestation to contribute to creating “cleaner air in the future in accordance with our goal of ‘Shaping Clean Tomorrow.’”

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Written By

Raymond Gregory Tribdino is the motoring & information technology editor of Malaya Business Insight ( in the Philippines. He has been covering automotive, transport, and IT since 1992. His passion for electric vehicles started with the failed electrification of a scooter in 1994. He wrote for, one of the pioneer electric vehicle websites, in 1997. He was a college professor for 8 years at the Philippine Women’s University. He is also now a podcaster co-hosting for the Philippines' top-rated YouTube tech site “TechSabado” and the baby-boomer popular “Today is Tuesday.” He is a husband and father of five, a weekend mechanic and considers himself a handyman, an amateur ecologist, and environmentalist. He is back to trying to electrify motorcycles starting with a plug-in trail motorcycle.


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