Powering China’s electric vehicles

opinion September 17, 2018 01:00

By Suwatchai Songwanich
Chief executive Officer,
Bangkok Bank (China)

3,330 Viewed

China is well on the way to becoming the electric vehicle (EV) leader in a hyper-competitive market, after it announced plans last year to phase out production and sales of fossil fuel cars.

Between the manufacture of 24.8 million cars in 2017 alone, and its recent efforts to improve its environmental scorecard, China is asserting its dominance in the automobile manufacturing space, with a few infrastructure roadblocks along the way.

The competitive EV market – dominated by China, Japan, the United States and Europe – is centred around the development of CASE technologies – an acronym derived from the words 

“connected”, ”autonomous”, “shared and services” and “electric”. But aside from producing high-quality vehicles, there is a critical need for societies to produce the necessary infrastructure for these “connected” EVs to reach their full potential.

While the Chinese government has introduced generous subsidies for EV customers, and imposed new industry guidelines, one of the central barriers to the proliferation of EVs in China is the supply of charging infrastructure. Given China’s vast landscape, an insufficient number of public charging stations makes it difficult for travellers to plan long journeys, discouraging consumers from shifting from fossil fuels just yet.

That is why China has committed to the mass development of charging stations, which numbered 214,000 by the end of 2017 and should expand to 500,000 by 2020. Once there are enough charging stations spread out across the country the popularity of electric vehicles is expected to rise in parallel. Countries that achieve the competitive edge in charging infrastructure will be better positioned to encourage the adoption of EVs.

Closer to home, the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand (EVAT), has said that Thailand’s current EV take-up rate is insufficient, but the market is expanding. EVAT expects the rising popularity of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) to create more demand for charging stations in metropolitan and urban areas. While there were no charging stations in 2015, there are almost 200 stations in Bangkok today, developed by private firms and supported by government subsidies.

Considering the cost of installing a normal charging station is Bt300,000 and a quick-charging one is Bt2.5 million, it makes sense that the Energy Policy and Planning Office (Eppo) has given Bt42.53 million to state-owned enterprises, government agencies and private companies to aid in the development of public charging stations.

It will take a concerted effort between the Thai public and private sectors to develop an extensive EV charging network, but China clearly expects such investment will pay dividends in the future.

For more columns in this series please visit www.bangkokbank.com.