The future is electric: your questions about EVs answered
Now that auto companies are rolling out more and more electric vehicles (EVs) onto the Thai market, the real question is whether the time has come for Thai consumers to purchase an EV.
First there’s the cost. Prices of EV models in Thailand are generally high when compared to those with internal combustion engines (ICE) as they are mostly offered by luxury car brands,but manufacturers from China such as MG and Great Wall Motors (GWM) are offering more affordable options.
MG has been offering the electrified version of the ZS small SUV as well as the EP estate, and the latest member to join the race is ORA, a sub–brand of GWM, one of China’s largest auto manufacturers.
The launch of the ORA Good Cat on October 29 sparked strong comments on the internet regarding its price of Bt989,000 to Bt1,199,000 for the three trim levels being offered.
While some who signed up for the pre-order privileges said they are disappointed with the pricing as they expected it to be considerably lower, the Good Cat, which will also be offered in the European market, is still doing well in terms of general public interest.
In Thailand, more than 4,200 pre-orders were placed for the Good Cat prior to its launch, and it will be interesting to see how many of these will turn into actual orders. For customers who made pre-orders, ORA is giving away a package worth Bt220,000, including an interest-free 48-month installment plan, free insurance, free home charger and free car delivery.
To answer the question of whether it is time to buy an EV, we talked to Krisda Utamote, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand (EVAT).
“We have to admit that the Thai government’s EV targets are highly ambitious and will be difficult to achieve,” he said.
In a move to catch up with the EV trend that has been growing in developed countries, the government initially set a target of 30% of total auto production in Thailand to consist of EVs, and in March this year raised the target to as high as 50%.
In the short-term, such as in 2022, it aims for EVs to make up as much as 4 per cent of the total market, or roughly 30,000 units, with the goal of reaching 400,000 units by the year 2030.
“The total aggregate of fully electric or ZEVs (Zero Emission Vehicles) in Thailand is just over 3,000 units and to jump from four-digit to five-digit figures in a year is just too ambitious,” he said.
Nevertheless, EVs sales are growing, but at a more reasonable pace. The government project could help speed up the process, Krisda noted.
Krisda, who is also director for corporate communications at BMW Group Thailand, pointed out that the current excise tax support for EVs is not enough to promote growth.
“We are also talking with the government about chances of reducing the import duty for EVs in order to make them more accessible to the public,” he said.
Currently Thailand has bilateral trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea that cut import duty for EVs to 0%, 20% and 40% respectively. But EVs imported from other countries are still liable for the regular 80% import duty, apart from various other local taxes.
There are also non-tax privileges to consider. “In countries where EVs are popular, there are also privileges for users likeparking privileges as well as a number of other incentives. We want to implement them here too.”
While MG was the first Chinese automaker to offer an affordable EV with the Bt1.2-million ZS EV and the Bt988,000-EP, Tesla is also gaining popularity among luxury car buyers despite not having an official importer (it is sold through grey market importers). “The ORA Good Cat is another EV that can turn into a mass model,” Krisda commented.
However, EVs might not be the ideal car for everyone at this stage.
“Many people want to try out the EV technology, but if you want to purchase an EV right now, it would be a good second car rather than the first car for the family,” he said.
Another important factor for buyers would be the charging infrastructure. While current EVs boast a usable range of 300-500kms on a single charge, many are still not confident.
“If you have a house then there is no problem as you can charge it through a wall box overnight,” Krisda said. “But if you live in an apartment without charging infrastructure, then you will need to plan to charge it elsewhere, whether at the office, department stores or commercial charging stations.”
Presently there are 2,272 EV chargers in 688 locations around Thailand, which may be partly adequate for the current EV population.
“For driving long distances (such as when going upcountry), EV owners must normally do a considerable amount of trip planning in terms of charging points,” he said, “This is something an EV owner must get used to.”
Every brand provides a smartphone application that helps, but among the factors to consider are the compatibility of charging connector types, charging voltage, opening hours of charging stations and even the number of users powering up their EVs at a particular station.
But with the climate crisis at the point of no return, the future is looking increasingly electric and that alone should prompt those providing the infrastructure to up their game.