The Korea Herald


Experts urge joint efforts for ASEAN EV market formation, growth

By Cho Chung-un

Published : May 8, 2019 - 15:22

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SEOGWIPO, Jeju Island -- Despite differences in market characteristics and environment, businesses engaged in electric vehicle developments in Southeast Asia can grow together through a concerted effort to build regional partnerships on zero emission cars, experts said Tuesday.

At an international conference held on the sidelines of the annual International Electric Vehicle Expo, business representatives, scholars and industry observers highlighted the need for raising voices for more private and public collaboration for EV market formation in Southeast Asia, projected to become the fourth largest economic bloc in the world by 2030. The demand for cars in the region has been also growing rapidly on the back of their income level growth, as well as people’s aspiration for developments of domestically manufactured cars, they added.

(Video shot and edited by Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

EV businesses in Southeast Asia in nature are competitors, but there are shared understanding for having their voices united to address the industry’s concerns and the need for setting up standards and regulations for EV operations, said Edmund Abengana Araga, President of Electric Vehicle Association in the Philippines.

“We coordinated topics on how we can help each other on convincing the government on giving subsidies and incentives. Even though we were somehow direct competitors, but it‘s a big market,” he said.

Araga was one of speakers presenting the current situation of growing EV markets in their respective countries, a few example of homegrown EVs, as well as challenges such as lack of infrastructure, government subsidies, and financial investment for joint ventures.

The list of participants included experts from Vietnam, Indonesia and also other Asian countries, Mongolia, Myanmar, East Timor, Singapore and Bhutan. Speakers also included executives from Korean companies including Lim Jeong-hwan, senior vice president for commercial vehicle engineering design center at Hyundai Motor, presenting their vision for green cars. The country’s largest carmaker is gearing up for the market entry in ASEAN market, with a strategic base in Vietnam for now.

They also raised the need to standardize EV technologies and pointed out the lack of government regulations, which makes it difficult for companies to plan for the future.

In the Philippines, a state-driven program to make public utility vehicles more environmentally friendly was launched in 2017, he said, but there’s no unified regulatory framework drafted for the project. There are 23,400 Jeepneys, the most popular means of public transportation made of parts from Jeeps left behind by US troops. Nearly 90 percent of the vehicles are over 15 years old.

For ASEAN countries that have no traditional auto industries, development of homegrown electric vehicles is the key to raise their manufacturing capabilities in the future. This is why building networks, and seeking business opportunities with Asian partners is important.

“We can see from last year compared to 2017, the number of hybrids and plug-in hybrids and also the number of battery electric vehicles has increased almost double. And now we have more available models of the battery in the market at the moment,” said Yossapong Laoonual, president of Electric Vehicle Association of Thailand. “So it seems to be a good sign in Thailand. However, in Thai government, now there are challenges not just to sell EVs but promote the production of EVs in Thailand,” he said.

To tap into the Southeast Asian auto market, which has been dominated by Japanese carmakers for decades, not only big manufacturers and small- and medium-sized companies are seeking for business opportunities.

“We are currently running for a pilot program in a joint project with the Thai government to test the operation of our electric buses designed to resist from hot and humid weather in the country,” said Kang Young-kwon, president of Edison Motors, a South Korean manufacturer of electric buses. “We are now competing against companies from China and Japan, for electric bus procurement project by the Thai government.”

ASEAN 10 countries EV forum (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald) ASEAN 10 countries EV forum (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

What EV businesses in Southeast Asia are looking for in South Korea is reliable suppliers.

“We’re looking for battery suppliers so that they would be able to supply it locally in the Philippines. One of the importations we have is batteries and we know the Koreans have the capacity to supply this in the Philippines,” said Araga.

Successful policy work to promote the number of EVs are also on the wanted list.

“I have been to the EV expo in Jeju, this is my fourth time, actually, so I think we have learned a lot and we know a lot of policy in Jeju that they are trying to promote EV 400 percent by 2030,” said Laoonual. “It‘s quite good policy and we have been learning from this experience and transfer this knowledge in to the Thai government.”

South Korea’s southern resort island of Jeju has been considered as an ideal testbed market for EVs. The self-governing province plans to become a carbon-free island by 2030 with vehicles all operated by electric batteries. Jeju has an electric vehicles charging station in every 3.5 square meters, with full policy support.

By Cho Chung-un (