Many people expect electric vehicles to become a fixture in a future world that relies on renewable energies. But not many EV companies started out as renewable energy companies.
One company trying to accomplish this feat is Energy Absolute, based in Bangkok. The biodiesel maker and renewable energy company entered the commercial electric vehicle business in 2019.
In March of this year, Thailand set a goal of having one million electric vehicles on its roads by 2025 – and hopes that number will climb to 15 million a decade later. This includes not only private cars, but also commercial vehicles – delivery vans, trucks, buses and the like.
A former securities dealer, Somphote Ahunai, founded Energy Absolute in 2006. He listed the company in Thailand in 2013 and began expanding into energy storage in 2016 when the company acquired shares in Taiwanese company Amita Technologies, a manufacturer of energy storage systems. It is now in the final stages of building a $ 3 billion battery gigafactory project to manufacture lithium-ion batteries.
Ahunai told CNBC’s “Managing Asia” that the government’s efforts to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles in Thailand helped him get the project started, and now he says he is urging the government to “open up the market and get one.” to create favorable policies for the electric vehicle market “.
However, the pandemic has affected the company’s push toward electric vehicles. An order for 3,500 five-seat hatchbacks was canceled by a local taxi company as tourism dried up. Ahunai made a quick pan to focus on utility vehicles and battery storage instead.
“A lot of manufacturers are focusing on the passenger car. Not many people are focusing on the commercial vehicle yet because they can’t overcome how to charge the vehicle faster and the battery last longer,” said Ahunai.
Ahunai plans to install 1,000 charging stations across the country in the next few years.
A charging sign is located at an Energy Absolute Anywhere charging station in Bangkok, Thailand, 2019.
Nicolas Axelrod | Bloomberg | Getty Images
“We have introduced nearly 500 charging stations across the country, mainly in Bangkok and the surrounding area,” said Ahunai, adding that the company holds nearly 80% of the market share of charging stations in Thailand.
His focus on commercial vehicles is in line with Thai policy of putting around 70,000 electric commercial vehicles on the road every year.
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“If we back up successfully [the commercial electric vehicle] Segment … then we create economies of scale so that we can move into the other segments, “said Ahunai.
Japanese, American, and German automakers have all made vehicles in Thailand, but despite the country’s auto-building expertise, it does not have its own internationally recognized vehicle brand. Ahunai said he believed electric cars could change that. He wants Energy Absolute to be at the center of that effort.
“We believe that by using [our] Technology and Thailand [auto-making] Infrastructure, we can use that as a stepping stone to the world market, “said Ahunai.” At least we can penetrate the ASEAN market with almost 600 million inhabitants. So that’s a good market for us at the beginning. “
At the moment, most of the company’s revenue comes from renewables like wind and solar, but Ahunai said his foray into commercial electric vehicles will be an important source of income for the future.
“If you look at what we are investing [in] Now, “he said,” it will completely change the company’s revenue structure in a few years. “