Many people hope that electric cars will become a fixture in a future world that depends on renewable energy. However, there are not many electric vehicle companies that started as renewable energy companies.
One company trying to achieve this feat is Bangkok-based Energy Absolute. This biodiesel producer and renewable energy company entered the commercial electric vehicle business in 2019.
In March of this year, Thailand set a goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on its roads by 2025-and hopes that this number will increase to 15 million in ten years. This includes not only private cars, but also commercial vehicles-delivery vans, trucks, buses, etc.
Former securities trader Somphote Ahunai founded Energy Absolute in 2006. He listed the company in Thailand in 2013 and began to enter the energy storage field in 2016 when the company acquired a stake in Taiwanese energy storage manufacturer Amita Technologies. It is now in the final stages of building a $3 billion battery super factory project to manufacture lithium-ion batteries.
Ahunai told CNBC’s “Manage Asia” that the government’s efforts to promote the adoption of electric vehicles in Thailand helped him launch the project, and now he says he is urging the government to “open up the market and develop favorable policies for the electric vehicle market.”
However, the pandemic affected the company’s entry into the field of electric vehicles. As the tourism industry dried up, a local taxi company cancelled an order for 3,500 five-seater hatchbacks. Ahunai quickly turned to focus on commercial vehicles and battery storage.
“A lot of manufacturers, they focus on passenger cars. But not many people focus on commercial vehicles because they can’t overcome how to make the vehicle charge faster and make the battery life longer,” Ahunai said.
Ahunai’s plan is to install 1,000 charging stations across the country in the next few years.
The charging sign is located at the Energy Absolute Anywhere charging station in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2019.
Nicholas Axelrod | Bloomberg | Getty Images
“We have launched nearly 500 charging stations nationwide, mainly in Bangkok and nearby areas,” Ahunai said, adding that the company has nearly 80% of the charging station market share in Thailand.
His focus on commercial vehicles is in line with Thailand’s policy of putting approximately 70,000 commercial electric vehicles on the road every year.
“If we succeed in ensuring [the commercial electric vehicle] Segment markets…Then we create economies of scale and let us enter other market segments,” such as passenger cars, Ahunai said.
Automakers in Japan, the United States, and Germany all produce cars in Thailand, but despite the country’s expertise in car manufacturing, it does not have its own internationally renowned car brand. Ahunai said he believes that electric vehicles can change this situation. He hopes that Energy Absolute will be the front and center of this work.
“We believe that by using [our] Technology and Thailand [auto-making] Infrastructure, we can use it as a springboard to enter the global market,” Ahunai said. “At least, we can enter the ASEAN market with a population of nearly 600 million. So, from the beginning, this is a good market for us. “
At present, most of the company’s revenue still comes from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy, but Ahunai said that his entry into commercial electric vehicles will be an important source of revenue in the future.
“If you look at what we invest in [in] Now,” he said, “it will completely change the company’s revenue structure within a few years. “