BANGKOK: Soaring fuel prices in Thailand have sparked a sales boom in electric vehicles, or EVs, as the Bangkok International Motor Show revealed before wrapping up on Sunday.
More than a million people visited the show, with organizers saying there had been a 20 percent increase in orders for electric vehicles compared with last year.
Much like its regional neighbors, the Southeast Asian country has been slow to embrace electric vehicles, but the Bangkok government has started embracing the alternative to fuel-powered transport and earlier this year announced subsidies for some EVs.
The turnaround comes at a time when Thai consumers face soaring energy prices, with the government shielding the nation’s low-income groups by freezing retail diesel prices on March 22. Gasoline prices rose above 40 baht ($1.20) per liter on average on Saturday, 50 percent higher than last year.
Grand Prix International, organizer of the Bangkok motor show, said Thais are turning to EVs due to global changes and increasing fuel prices.
“Overall, EV is quite a big trend. Not long before the motor show the government announced measures to reduce the tax for affordable-priced EVs,” Anothai Eamlumnao, Grand Prix International chief operating officer, told Arab News.
“Oil is expensive now and the global trend is changing to electric cars.”
Eamlumnao said there is a 20 percent increase in electric car orders at the show. The event, which also features other types of vehicles, is expected to translate to about 15 billion baht ($448 million) in total spending.
Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said in a statement that Thailand aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions, transform half of its total auto production to EVs by 2030, and become a production base for cleaner vehicles in the region.
Officials are offering support for more Thais to buy electric cars, and the government in February issued incentive packages that include tax and duty exemption on some EV models.
MG Motor, one of the companies taking part in the Bangkok motor show, recorded about 1,000 pre-orders and said EVs were its top seller this year.
But with the trend in its early days in Thailand, interested customers are still testing the waters.
Worrachat Tangfurat, a 41-year-old programmer who visited the motor show on Saturday, said he would wait for Thailand’s EV market to grow before making a purchase.
“I am interested in an EV because I think it will help save a lot on fuel,” Tangfurat told Arab News.
“But I am still studying the model and the industry, and want to wait for the market to become bigger because right now I think there are still not enough charging stations.”
Sasitorn Panijaren, 29, is also considering making the switch, but will wait for more variety to become available in the country.
“I am thinking about buying an electric car in maybe the next two or three years because I think it will reduce spending on fuel,” Panijaren told Arab News.