BANGKOK: From a state-owned enterprise to a renewable energy startup, key players are jumping into Thailand’s electric vehicle battery market, driven by the government’s push to make the country a regional production hub for EVs and their components.
Global Power Synergy (GPSC), the utility arm of Thailand’s state-owned oil and gas conglomerate PTT Group, will spend 2.7 billion baht (US$73.6 million) this year to develop EV batteries in the country’s Eastern Economic Corridor. The project includes an EV battery plant and the creation of an associated supply chain.
GPSC is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at a market capitalisation of more than 226 billion baht.
The company’s investment covers building the factory, researching client demand, and producing made-to-order batteries for a variety of uses, including EV batteries and power storage for solar plants.
“We will not only build an EV battery plant and develop EV battery technology but will also create an EV value chain and integrated ecosystem, which is key to our goal of becoming a leading EV-producing country in the region,” said Buranin Rattanasombat, senior executive vice president of PTT Group.
GPSC signed a memorandum of understanding in February with Arun Plus – another PTT subsidiary – with the goal of producing EV batteries with an annual capacity of 5 to 10 gigawatt-hours by 2030. This is enough to equip more than 200,000 compact EVs.
Energy Absolute (EA), a renewable energy startup, also invested 2 billion baht to produce 2 GWh of battery storage per year. The batteries will be destined for electric buses, trucks and ferries. EA invested via its 70%-owned subsidiary, Amita Taiwan, which is expected to produce 400 megawatt-hours of battery storage annually.
Thai companies are looking to invest heavily in EV batteries as demand heats up due to the rising popularity of electric vehicles on the back of government subsidies for EV buyers.
The government hopes the subsidies will lead to Thailand becoming the EV production hub of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with electrics comprising 30% of the country’s vehicles by 2030.
Buyers can receive a subsidy of up to 150,000 baht per EV. Moreover, the government on June 9 cut import duties on electric vehicles to 2% from 8% in exchange for promises from manufacturers to build them domestically in the future.
Thanks to the subsidies and lower tariffs, the Federation of Thai Industries has forecast that domestic sales of EVs will exceed 10,000 units this year, more than quadruple the 1,954 units sold in 2021.
“This year is a golden year for EVs, as we see a sharp rise in demand, and that encourages more players to jump in the battery market,” said an analyst at Kasikokrn Research Center.
Thailand is not only keen on producing lithium-ion batteries for EVs but is also trying to develop zinc-ion batteries as a less costly alternative for consumers.
Last year the government decided to invest 192 million baht in a zinc-ion battery plant in the Eastern Economic Corridor. The project will be handled by the National Science and Technology Development Agency, which says that zinc-ion batteries are safer and more eco-friendly than their lithium-ion counterparts.
Renewable power plant operator BCPG also invested 772 million baht to produce long-life vanadium redox flow batteries, with a capacity of 1,000 MWh annually.
Prior to the recent flurry of EV battery investments, Banpu – Southeast Asia’s biggest coal miner and renewable power producer – acquired in 2019 a 47.68% stake in Singapore-based Durapower Holdings to jointly operate a lithium-ion battery plant in Suzhou, China.
The investment had targeted a capacity of 380 MWh for 2021, which is expected to rise to 1,000 MWh over the next few years.
The strong demand and large investments are expected to push Thailand’s EV battery production capacity to 430,000 units by the end of 2022, or about 3% of global capacity.