The electric vehicle (EV) has been regarded as a key player in decarbonising the transportation sector. The EV market in the ASEAN region recorded a value of USD 498.93 million in 2021, which is expected to reach USD 2,665.3 million in 2027. Nevertheless, the lack of EV charging infrastructure has been identified as one of the main challenges in accelerating the adoption of electric passenger cars. A phenomenon known as “range anxiety” is shown where EV users are concerned over the lack of charging infrastructure and the limited capacity of the batteries.
Technology and innovations needed for EV charging stations
The availability of fast charging, which can replicate the “on-the-go” refuelling experience of petroleum-based vehicles, is found to increase the transition to EV. Fast charging is a relatively new technology that needs to be accelerated in the near future to encourage EV uptake.
Another type of charging system is the battery swapping station (BSS). The EV owners can exchange their empty battery with a fully charged one, thus significantly reducing the waiting time for recharging compared to conductive charging. However, BSS might be more suitable for the public transportation system and more competitive BSS owners, as they took over the cost of the battery, battery maintenance, quality, and warranty from EV owners.
Lastly, in accommodating the prospected surge in EV adoption, the infrastructure, such as the charging units, charging time, and cost scheme, would need to be readily available and integrated with smart supply-demand management. Spatial planning during network management could determine the location and time of charging demand and the temporal incidence of charging events. Load management of EVs and smart charging strategy are critical for stabilising the interconnection with the power grid, preventing system overload, and reducing electricity costs under dynamic pricing schemes.
Supportive policy instruments
The deployment of charging infrastructure is related to government policy and supporting financial instruments. Supporting policy for the deployment of charging infrastructure includes minimum requirements in new or refurbished buildings and parking lots for EV charging and increasing publicly accessible chargers in cities and highway networks. It is also necessary to adopt standards enabling the inter-operability of various types of charging infrastructure.
On a cost-benefit basis, the supportive policies for EV can be divided into cost-wise and benefit-wise. The cost-wise approach involves policy tools, such as purchase cost subsidisation, investment in public charging infrastructure development, and tax reduction for the private use of company cars. Public funding plays an important role when there is low EV ownership and little profitability in the installation and operation of charging stations. This funding role will then progress to commercial operation in the long run with greater EV usage.
On the other hand, the benefit-wise encourages the policymakers to see the potential of EVs in terms of economic savings on reducing negative externalities from pollutant emissions and the economic benefit obtained from reducing oil dependency for transportation.
Involvement of various stakeholders in several ASEAN countries
Most ASEAN countries are setting up a national EV policy to accelerate EV adoption with the involvement of the main players, such as charging operators, energy companies, EV equipment companies, start-ups, and automotive companies. As seen in Thailand, a form of a consortium comprised of these major stakeholders could ease the interoperability. The construction of charging infrastructure is costly, ranging from $880 for AC level-1 to $160,000 for DC level-3 fast charging. In Thailand, a green loan of USD 48 million was provided by the Asian Development Bank and Energy Absolute for the countrywide EV charging network.
In Malaysia, the government is also looking for collaboration with the private sector to achieve its target of installing 10,000 EV charging stations and 1000 DC rapid charging stations by 2025. There are several charging network providers. To list a few, GreenTech Malaysia offers the chargEV network with 310 charging stations nationwide with an annual membership card of MYR 240 (~ USD 54.5). The EV Connection shows strong performance in deploying charging stations for commercial and residential charging, as well as DC charging stations at selected Caltex petrol stations along the North-South Expressway. The company also developed its app, JomCharge, enabling users to locate available chargers nearby.
Meanwhile, Singapore is actively engaging the private sector to ensure that its target of 60,000 charging points is commercially sustainable by 2030. By 2025, all Housing and Development Board towns will have at least three charging points. The largest EV charging network is the government-owned SP Group. The public can access the nearby charging facility and information on their charging stations through the SP utility app. The current price is SGD 0.4153/kWh (~ USD 0.3/kWh). There are other charging networks, like Greenlots at public car parks which charge only the parking price, and Shell Recharge at Shell petrol stations for SGD 0.55/kWh (~ USD 0.4/kWh).
These restriction has caused the implementation to be a significant challenge in ASEAN, a shared effort should be taken to allow more large-scale EV implementation within the region. On a different note, the idea of “on-the-go” charge-ups will provide consumers with a convenient environment as refuelling an internal combustion engine vehicle today can be explored to drive this agenda.
The development of this opinion article was supported by the Energy Foundation China (EFC) through “ACE-EFC Joint Studies on COVID-19 Impact on Energy Sector Development and Variable Renewable Energy – Smart Microgrid – Electric Vehicle Integration”.