The lack of adequate electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is a common challenge faced by Southeast Asian nations, says a panel of experts at the RHB ESG Thematic Conference on Oct 27.
This is the main obstacle to growing the industry, they add. “While power generation is sufficient, the issue lies in power distribution.”
In Thailand, for example, some 70% of charging infrastructure in the nation are located in Bangkok, says Kitpon Kittiampon, project manager of the S Curve & EV Value Chain Arun Plus, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PTT, the Thai state-owned listed oil and gas company.
Meanwhile, Paul Welsford, vice-president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Singapore (EVAS) highlighted that the power source in strategic EV charging locations in Singapore, such as multi-level public car parks, are not designed to charge EVs, but only to power lighting and elevators.
On the other hand, there is an expectation that EVs will achieve price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles in the near future as companies mass manufacture cheaper EVs, say the panellists. “So, while the price premium limits EV adoption now, it is less of a concern moving forward,” notes RHB in a Nov 1 thematic note.
Here, the transition to EVs is already taking place, with nearly one in 10 registered new vehicles being electric, notes RHB.
Currently, there are some 4,000 charging stations in Singapore, which includes a mix of publicly available charging stations and privately owned ones.
The Singaporean government is targeting 60,000 charging stations and expects 300,000 registered EVs by 2030.
Early adopter incentives and the Vehicular Emissions Scheme combined reduce up to $45,000 off EV registration fees, and these were designed to reduce the price gap with conventional vehicles.
Regarding the cost structure for EV charger installation, EVAS’s Welsford talked about how the majority of the cost was in labour and electrical infrastructure, whereas the charging stations themselves are only some 10% of the total cost.
Operators only take in a small margin on each charge to ensure recurring demand, he adds. Hence, the business only works at scale.
Thailand announced its “30/30 vision” to become a world-class EV hub and preferred investment destination for the EV ecosystem by 2030.
The Thai government’s subsidy for EV-related business has led Thailand to claim its place as an EV hub in Asean, says RHB.
Several EV players plan to build their EV bases in Thailand, such as the cooperation between PTT and Foxconn, as well as investments from other firms such as Great Wall Motor and MG Motor.
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Nevertheless, there is a lack of charging infrastructure in Thailand, with the majority of this only available in major cities, such as Bangkok. The country’s EV charging stations market is expected to chart a CAGR of 44.5% over 2021 to 2026.
Indonesia has the largest nickel reserves in the world, controlling 30% of global nickel production. Nickel is a raw material for EV batteries.
In 2020, batteries make up 39% of the total cost of EVs and, while the price of batteries will come down, it is expected to still make up 25% of total costs in 2030.
The lower cost of domestic EV batteries can increase Indonesia’s EV industry competitiveness, says Yunan Fajar Ariyanto, senior vice-president of Finance at Indonesia Battery Corporation.
The country expects to be the top two suppliers for imported EVs in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, Indonesia does not want to be just a “raw material giant”, it wants to be a hub for EVs as well, notes RHB.
A key challenge in growing the battery industry is that nickel mining sites are mostly located in hard-to-reach areas with limited road infrastructure. Downstream is less challenging, as the priority is only on ensuring liability and sufficient supply of other materials by working with partners.
Representing Malaysia on the panel were Huzaimi Nor Omar, COO of Green EV Charge; and Mohd Junaizee Mohd Noor, project director of EV at Tenaga Nasional Berhad, a company under Khazanah Nasional, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.
The number of battery EVs on Malaysian roads is low, about 480 units or 0.003% of total industry volume (TIV) as of December 2021.
Green EV Charge COO Huzaimi talked about the benefits of direct current (DC) chargers versus alternating current (AC) chargers. AC chargers are slower, as the power from the grid needs to be converted to DC inside the EV before being stored, whereas DC chargers are able to feed power directly to the EV’s battery. DC chargers are therefore more suitable for the future of EVs.
Green EV Charge wants to build charging hubs for EVs, with a target of 2,150 AC and 2,486 DC chargers by 2030.
As part of TNB’s Energy Transition Plan, it is investing 90 million ringgit ($26.71 million) over the span of three years to build DC chargers along highways to address the issue of range anxiety.