“Fully harness the EV momentum,” says the Asian Development Bank (ADD) in its “E-Mobility Options for ADB Developing Member Countries,” which both forecast and recommended the quick shift to electric vehicles in the region to stem both climate change issues and the rising cost of fuel.
The report noted how in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) focused on EV production and development both in the small, personal mobility space as well as development of battery and drivetrain technologies locally and in partnership with other car brands. The result that in the last decade, the uptake of electrified vehicles in China is the highest in the Asian region at 16% — translating to over 4 million pure electric and hybrid vehicles.
Interestingly, Bloomberg reported that China has over 350 million electric scooters, and the China Electric Vehicle Federation said there are another 100 million or so 3-wheel open, enclosed, and pickup-like electric transport vehicles registered. There are over 51,000 EV manufacturers in China. One estimate is that in the provinces where e-vehicle registration is lax, another 200 million or so electric vehicles are sold and used.
Six months after the ADB report was released, the ASEAN region is beginning to reinvigorate its entire vehicle manufacturing and distribution industry, bringing along with it a fledging EV component which was truncated in growth by the pandemic.
Automotive industry experts of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Automotive Federation are adamant of the viability of electric transport in the region. The group said that the growth of electric vehicles will come from private vehicle purchases first before public transportation. This theory is reflected by the numbers gathered by the International Renewable Energy Agency that predicted that by 2025, around 20% of all vehicles on road in Southeast Asia will be electric. To make this happen, the ADB recommends a three-pronged strategy to pursue e-mobility in the region.
First, one is to focus e-mobility initiatives and investments towards high mileage commercial vehicles, including buses, taxis, and delivery trucks even electric motorcycles and transporters. In the Philippines, for example, the ADB invested some $300 million over three years to replace polluting 2-stroke engine powered tricycles — a popular form of last-mile transportation.
Public transportation, such as Indonesia’s TransJakarta bus network, is more viable and productive example. Diesel buses in this on-road dedicated train-like system will be replaced with electric units. One electric bus will cut down the emissions of 40 fossil fuel cars or 110 motorcycles. The city is looking to run a fully electric bus system of more than 14,000 e-buses by 2030.
The ADB’s prioritization proposal should be given where EV investments yield the highest economic and environmental returns. In Djakarta, Indonesia’s main city, the taxi service BlueBird launched a trial fleet of 30 e-taxis in May 2019, and DAMRI, which runs the airport bus service, is planning to phase-in electric units as well. Large fleets of high-mileage vehicles that operate in cities allow quicker repayment of higher upfront fixed-costs.
Bangkok already has buses and electric taxis on its streets. A new innovation is to launch e-ferries, as rivers and tributaries are part of the mass transport systems.
Second, the ADB recommends cost-effective EV policies that support an ecosystem with adequate power infrastructure. This includes incentives to develop charging ports in existing gasoline stations, mall parking areas, and for the public sector, fast-charging along service routes as e-buses can run with smaller battery packs and shorter charging times. Adequate electricity supply and tailoring the charging facilities to different vehicles are central to the EV ecosystem, especially in the ASEAN where the lack of a standardized plug-in policy and the influx of a variety of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, European, and American EVs means up to 8 different charger plug configurations.
The ADB also recommended the refurbishment of EV batteries to move from the high discharge environment of electric vehicles to store renewable energy from solar or wind once battery packs are no longer useful in electrical vehicles — usually after 6 to 8 years. The development banks says this resolves environmental anxiety over battery waste and extends batteries’ economic usefulness, potentially defraying the initial investment burden.
Since there is a correlation between EV demand and the price of fossil fuels, the ADB suggests incentives that are “targeted toward high impact vehicles in support of sustainable business models.” Though applied intensively for the public transport sector, this suggestion also lessens the demand for private vehicles, which theoretically can cut down road congestion.
Other subsidies that can directly impact on preference are on purchasing and post-purchase, non-financial incentives. For example, China subsidizes 65% of the purchase cost of electric buses. The Philippine’s Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act (EVIDA) offers incentives such as zero % import duties, priority parking, and public charging infrastructure subsidies.
With the COVID-19 pandemic fizzling out and the recovery of the economies of Asia on the upturn, the time is ripe for an electrification program in the auto industry, whether based on a full electric or a hybrid approach. Starting with high-volume, high-utilization vehicles electrifying transportation in the ASEAN will help curb greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50% by 2035.
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