PTT and foreign automakers sign electric vehicle deal


The market for electric vehicles in Thailand received a charge last week when state energy conglomerate PTT Group signed a cooperation agreement with six foreign automakers in which it will begin building a network of electric car charging stations with 20 stations open by 2017.

PTT inked the agreement with the Thai units of BMW Group, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi Motors Corp, Nissan Motor, Porsche and Volvo. The partially privatized state energy firm pledged to invest in constructing and operating the stations, while the automakers committed to building the vehicles and launching information campaigns to boost public confidence in the performance and future of electric automobiles.

Thailand’s policymakers are solidly supporting the development of the electric vehicle sector, announcing earlier this year that they are aiming to have up to 1.2 million electric vehicles on Thailand’s roads by 2036 serviced by a network of over 1,000 charging stations. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has already ordered 200 electric buses to serve the capital’s commuters.

At the end of 2015, there were just under 68,000 electric vehicles plying Thailand’s roads, according to Energy Minister Anantaporn Karnchanarat. Sales of hybrid gas-electric cars or plug-in hybrid cars accounted for just 1 percent of total auto sales in the Kingdom last year. One of the largest barriers to achieving higher sales and growing the market has been a lack of supporting infrastructure, particularly charging stations.

The policy to promote and facilitate the production and market for electric vehicles will proceed in three phases. During the first phase that runs through 2017, the government will create laws, regulations, tax regimes, service fee structures and infrastructure.

During the second phase, which will run from 2017 through 2019, the private sector will work with the government to supply electric vehicle fleets for the public sector and assist with infrastructure development. The third phase that starts in 2020 will see an aggressive production and marketing of electric vehicles to the public at large, and the government will increase assistance in development of supporting infrastructure such as charging stations and power networks for charging.

The policy to promote and develop the electric vehicle sector fits neatly into Thailand 4.0, a national strategy unveiled by the government to transform the Kingdom’s economy from one that is heavily reliant on traditional manufacturing to one that is driven by innovation, creativity, higher-technology and value-added manufacturing.

Automobile production has been a national strength for the past three decades, when Thailand’s burgeoning auto manufacturing earned it the nickname “The Detroit of Southeast Asia.”

PTT began researching electric vehicle technology in 2012. The firm already operates four charging stations and is planning on opening two more later this year, and reaching 20 by 2017, said PTT Chief Executive Tevin Vonvanich.

In a related development, Japan’s FOMM Corporation announced last week it will found an assembly plant for its compact electric vehicles in Thailand, with initial output expected to be 25,000 vehicles per year.

Chief executive Hideo Tsurumaki said FOMM has already found two Thai partners – Trinex Assets Company and Kusumoto Chavalit & Partners Company – which will help support future investment in Thailand.