Thailand charging up electric vehicle sector


The global electric car market will be getting a charge from Thailand as the Kingdom emerges as a leading global manufacturer of batteries for electric vehicles, according to a forecast by a local research firm. Meanwhile, Thai energy company Banpu announced it is buying a stake in Japan’s FOMM Corporation, a manufacturer of compact electric vehicles.

Thailand’s output of electric vehicle (EV) batteries should reach 430,000 units a year by 2023, placing it among the top four manufacturers in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a report released last week by Kasikorn Research Center (K-Research), the analysis arm of Kasikorn Bank, or K-Bank, one of the largest Thai commercial banks.

K-Research also predicted that EVs would make up 25 percent of the Thai car domestic car market by 2023 with 240,000 electric cars. This includes hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery-powered EVs.

The forecast highlights Thailand’s often overlooked but important role in global manufacturing supply chains. The Kingdom is a manufacturing powerhouse, producing an impressive range of industrial and consumer goods and parts without garnering a great deal of attention.

When flooding in several Thai provinces in 2011 deluged several industrial estates, it disrupted the manufacture of computer hard disk drives. That led to delays around the world in deliveries of computers. Until then, most people were unaware that Thailand was the world’s largest manufacturer of computer hard disk drives.

The forecast also underscores the Thai government’s commitment to promoting and supporting the electric vehicle industry. Developing the EV industry is part of Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to lift the Kingdom to a higher level of development through advanced and green technologies, innovation, and research and development.

The private sector is also playing a significant part in transforming Thailand. Energy firm Banpu said it is buying a 21.5 percent stake in FOMM Corporation of Japan for $20 million. FOMM manufactures compact EVs and is determined to promote their sale and use in Southeast Asia.

Somruedee Chaimongkol, Banpu’s chief executive officer, told The Nation newspaper, “The investment is another strategic move for the Banpu Group to expand its investment to develop a technologically-advanced clean energy business in Asia-Pacific. Electric Vehicle (EV) is one of the energy solutions we have researched. We believe that it will see good business growth and serve as an expansion of our investment in an electric vehicle battery manufacturer.”