Bangkok, Venice of the East gets a new “E”
Since November 27, the first seven EV (electric vehicle) boats have been carrying passengers over five kilometres of Klong Phadung Krungkasem. The route covers 11 piers between Hua Lamphong train station and Talad Tewalat. Other stops include Yotse, the Ministry of Energy, Ratchadamnoen Nok and Thewet.
Initiated by Krungthep Tanakom, a holding company under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration for public investment projects, the service aims to maximise the use of waterways in the capital and provide environmentally friendly mobility to the city.
More importantly, the service is also an effort by Ministry of Public Transport to enhance getting around the city by making it easier for commuters to change onto other forms of transport. The route connects with other modes of public transports at on four spots: the Chao Phraya Express Boat at Thewarat Market, Saen Saeb Boat at the Ministry of Energy, trains at Hua Lamphong Station and the metro system also at Hua Lamphong Station.
Each EV boat operates completely on electricity thanks to 12 solar panels installed on the roof. They are also equipped with a GPS device, indicating the location. The boat travel at a maximum speed of 17km per hour and can run up to four hours on one charge.
And to ensure that the service is available to all, the boat can accommodate not only 30 passengers but also one wheelchair.
The service operates from 6am to 7pm on weekdays with boats running every 15 minutes on a total of 39 trips per day. That number goes down to 23 trips on weekends between 8am to 7pm. The six-month trial is free and the fare will be kept low – at a maximum of 10 baht – when the service is fully introduced in 2021.
The service follows on from a trial service that was first introduced in October 2018, with two boats – one EV and one diesel-engine. The trial service offered only 14 trips per day.
Nonetheless, the service has its critics. Some say the Klong Phadung Krungkasem route isn’t for the daily commute but more for tourists while environment-conscious commuters want to see EV boats on popular routes like Klong Saen Saep and Chao Phraya River.
The Marine Department tried its prototype electric-powered boat on Klong Saen Saep in mid-August. The trial was satisfactory, as the ride was quiet and didn’t generate any exhaust fumes or waves disturbing the houses along the canal.
Chawalit Methayaprapat, the owner of Krobkrua Khon Song that operates boats on Klong Saen Saep, said he was interested in introducing an electric-powered boat, but at the moment, the cost of the battery and quick-charging stations are still too high and unstable for him to make the investment. It could take a few more years for the technology to become efficient and cost effective.
Next year, he will start building new boats made from aluminium equipped with a diesel engine that can be switched to an electric-powered engine if and when the price is right.