All Thai boats to go electric

Traveling by boat is the most traditional form of transportation in Thailand, where the capital of Bangkok was once called “the Venice of the East” because of its extensive networks of canals.

The most traditional mode of transport in Thailand is about to go 21st century. The Marine Department said last week it would start transitioning all public boats and ferries to electric models next year following the recent debut of a renewables-powered ferry on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.

“Concerns about PM2.5 air pollution, smog emissions, noise pollution and increasing costs for ferry operators prompted them to start paying attention to EV (electric vehicle) ferries,” said Withaya Yamoung, Director-General of the Marine Department.

Energy Absolute, a renewable energy company in Bangkok, developed the first electric ferry and the service debuted on the Chao Phraya River in July this year. Another renewable energy firm, Banpu, is in the midst of trials of its electric ferries that will take passengers to resort islands from the mainland.

But the Chao Phraya will currently be the first focus. Two companies operate express boat services on the river that carry tens of thousands of commuters every day. Chao Phraya Express Boat Company operates 70 ferries, and the Sansaeb Express Boat Company runs 60 boats.

Amorn Sapthaweekul of Energy Absolute said the company expects to launch 20 electric river cruisers by the end of this year, with ten more expected early next year. They would transport commuters from central Bangkok to outer areas along the river.

He said another 23 electric ferries would be delivered early next year at the cost of about $30 million.

Hotels along the river that offer dinner cruises have said they are interested in switching to electric-powered boats but want to monitor battery prices first.

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