EV charging presents huge growth opportunities for SE Asia

Part 2 of our feature on the development of the electric vehicle market in Southeast Asia.

25, Nov. 2021

The all-electric BMW iX3 is being charged. It has a high-voltage battery with 74kWh net capacity. (Photo: BMW)
The all-electric BMW iX3 is being charged. It has a high-voltage battery with 74kWh net capacity. (Photo: BMW)

By Celine Chen

SINGAPORE, NNA - Global governments and industry players alike have recognized that the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is presenting a great opportunity for their economies to forge ahead their goals for economic growth and sustainable development concurrently as they ride out the pandemic.

In Southeast Asia, for instance, the benefits of electrification are substantial and far-reaching, according to industry observers.

"Apart from enabling economies to meet their climate change commitments, reduce air pollution, and increase energy security, electrification also offers many opportunities along the value chain for economies with established automotive manufacturing hubs – such as Indonesia and Thailand – to extend their footprint in EV and battery production, and for economies with less developed automotive manufacturing capabilities to catch up with, or even leapfrog, industry players in more established automotive manufacturing hubs," said Deloitte in its report on "Supercharging electric mobility in Southeast Asia" released earlier this year.

The economic advantages of electrification stem from the new sources of value creation across the entire supply chain, from the sourcing of raw materials to the introduction of new aftersales business offerings, said the business consultancy firm.

Deloitte said some examples include the sourcing of essential raw materials for the sustainable production of EV batteries, such as cobalt, lithium, manganese, and lithium, at lower costs; and the know-how for the production of batteries and battery recycling.

In addition, there are economies of scale and revenue opportunities from simplified EV manufacturing processes and flexible vehicle design.

"Other wider ecosystem advantages could also include the creation of service industries to support EV ownership, such as charging infrastructure, integrated energy management, micro-grid optimization, mobility services, roadside assistance, and insurance, as well as the creation of new business models for second-life batteries and the disposal of electronic waste," added Deloitte.

Apart from considering the total cost of EV ownership, two key enablers for motorists to go green are good battery range and life, and the availability of charging networks.

"Southeast Asian markets that are already important automotive manufacturing hubs – such as Indonesia and Thailand, which have outputs of more than 1 million and 2 million vehicle units respectively – may recognize the opportunity to extend their footprint in EV and battery production, whereas those with less developed automotive manufacturing capabilities may also view EVs and the rise of alternative mobility models as viable ways of leapfrogging industry players in more established automotive manufacturing hubs," Deloitte added.

Consumer education and ownership experience will be key to addressing anxiety over travel range, which continues to be one of the top concerns hindering greater EV adoption across both private and commercial use cases in Southeast Asia, said Deloitte.

Furthermore, the evolution of high-density batteries and fast-charging technology will also enable new fleet operating models, and provide greater lifetime certainty of battery range and life.

"The accessibility and interoperability of charging infrastructure is a major source of concern not only for EV users, but also governments and public utilities. To increase the return on investment, Southeast Asian economies should consider the implementation of demand-optimized location prioritization for public charging facilities, and introduce digital solutions and load-shifting incentives for consumers," said Deloitte.

Recognizing there is an immense untapped potential in EV market especially in countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Power Technology Research said there has been positive momentum regarding the EV production and its charging infrastructure.

Many markets in Southeast Asia currently do not have sufficient charging networks to support consistent EV usage, said the research company.

"For EVs to proliferate across ASEAN countries, interoperability and accessibility is the key. Irrespective of the battery’s range, there is a need of accessible charging stations on long haul routes. Public charging network providers in Southeast Asia have been working independently, leading to an inefficient distribution of charging stations. This has resulted in a saturation of EV chargers in commercial areas, and a lack of EV chargers in residential areas where it is more convenient for EV users to use overnight charging," said Power Technology Research.

Governments will need to streamline the processes and allow data-sharing – between charging points and the vehicle; the manufacturer and the vehicle; the charging network providers and charging points; or charging network providers and utilities providers – which could also help to strengthen the overall EV ecosystem, said the research company.

While the EV adoption rate is significantly high in Europe, North America and China, other regions like Southeast Asia have been tardy in their transition towards e-mobility.

"However, recently there have been promising signs for the future of the EV market especially in countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; where there has been an increase in charging infrastructure investments, purchase incentives for EVs, and model availability," said Power Technology Research.

It said the six emerging EV markets in Southeast Asia are Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

It said Singapore is at the forefront of EV charging infrastructure, noting that the government has allocated $22 million from 2021 to 2025 for initiatives to promote EV adoption and increase the number of chargers at private properties.

Singapore has also managed to successfully establish itself as the R&D epicenter for the region’s EV industry, by facilitating investments from multinationals and start-ups to build a strong local EV ecosystem.

This week (Nov. 24), Singapore's renewable energy storage provider VFlowTech has joined Seoul National University of Science & Technology (SeoulTech) and Korean-based CompanyWE Inc in a project to install self-reliant charging infrastructure at gas stations in South Korea using a "Vanadium redox flow energy storage" system.

The system for fast-charging will use VFlowTech’s 150kW modular PowerCube batteries.

This follows a successful deployment of a test-bed project in Singapore which saw the installation of green EV charging stations powered by solar energy in JTC CleanTech One’s carpark, in Jurong.

Avishek Kumar, co-founder and CEO of VFlowTech, said: “Energy storage and management is a key enabler for the energy transition to renewables, due to the intermittent nature of solar or wind power generation. Governments around the world are seeking solutions for renewable energy storage to help them transition from a fossil fuel-reliant grid to a 100 percent renewable-powered grid."

Alan Yi, e-mobility manager at BMW Group Asia, said the company is currently partnering Greenlots to enable customers to install charging wall-boxes at landed homes and condominiums in Singapore.

"In the future, we aim to offer customers subscription packages to further enhance their public charging experience. BMW focuses on the entire value chain of a BEV, beyond simply the local zero-emission aspect of EV ownership. Therefore, green charging stations are in line with BMW’s vision of e-mobility and sustainability," he told NNA.

In Singapore, BMW launched the all-electric BEV (Battery EV) BMW iX3 earlier this year. It will be followed by the BMW iX in December this year and the BMW i4 in the first quarter of 2022.

Said Yi, "We foresee a significant shift towards BEVs in the coming years, particularly in the next generation of models where 90 percent of the segments will have BEV offerings."

He added, "Electrification is a marathon, not a sprint. BMW Group Asia believes EV adoption will come in time as customers have more electrified options to choose from, better access to charging infrastructure, and continued support from the government in terms of rebates, incentives and infrastructure bills and plans."

Thailand, which has 1,000 charging stations installed throughout the country, has launched initiatives like a plan for 53,000 electric motorcycle taxis by 2022 and 5,000 electric buses by 2025.

BMW Group Thailand has launched a high-voltage battery assembly plant t together with the Dräxlmaier Group.

The Asian Development Bank and Energy Absolute Public Co. signed a $48 million green loan to finance a countrywide EV charging network in Thailand.

In Indonesia, EVs are seeing increasing adoption by ride-hailing operators such as Grab, which has partnered local power company PLN, to develop its fleet charging infrastructure.

Public transport operators, such as TransJakarta, also have plans to expand their electric bus fleet to 10,000 units over the next 10 years.

Over in Malaysia, there are plans to build 25,000 public charging points and 100,000 private charging points by 2030.

While the Philippines may not have many incentives targeted for purchasing EVs or charging infrastructure, the country has 5 percent and 4 percent of the global nickel and cobalt reserves respectively - which gives it an immense potential to participate more actively in the EV battery production value chain, said Power Technology Research.

There is a diversity of approaches towards e-mobility in the ASEAN countries mainly because they are in different stages of economic and automobile industry development.

However, one thing is certain. The market will require substantial OEM investment and government subsidies as well as an influx of local manufacturing automotive players to increase the uptake of EV, said Power Technology Research.

Analysts believe innovative wireless charging can be the real game-changer in the e-mobility sector since it does not require an interface or any supplementary equipment like cables.

The only thing required is the installation of induction pads beneath parking stations, homes, offices, drive-throughs, and supermarkets, said Power Technology Research.

"The driving objective of wireless charger technologies is to enable EVs to charge in under 10 minutes. As a result, this could be the shortest time taken to charge an EV in history. However, there are some impediments since high amounts of power are required." it concluded.