Prayut vows EV production within year

Industry key part of rejigging economy

Gen Prayut gives the keynote speech at a seminar held by the Federation of Thai Industries. (Government House photo)

Thailand aims to assemble electric vehicles (EVs) domestically within a year, faster than the previous target of 2024, says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Speaking at a seminar on Wednesday organised by the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), Gen Prayut said the government is speeding up promotion of EV assembly in Thailand and plans to begin by next year.

Significant parts such as batteries, traction motors, battery management services, AC/DC converters, inverters, portable EV chargers, electrical circuit breakers and EV smart charging systems should also be manufactured in the country in the near future, he said.

According to Gen Prayut, following his Tuesday meeting with Young Liu, chief executive and chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, the company announced a plan to embark on EV assembly in Thailand within one year.

Last year Foxconn agreed to team up with national oil and gas conglomerate PTT Plc to develop an EV production facility worth US$1-2 billion in the Eastern Economic Corridor.

The EV factory is expected to serve end-to-end operations covering the design, manufacturing and assembly of EVs, as well as producing key components.

The initial manufacturing target is set at 50,000 cars per year. The volume will increase to 150,000 annually in the next stage, according to the firms.

Gen Prayut said EV industry development is a key part of the government’s ongoing efforts to restructure the Thai economy to become high technology, with a special focus on new S-curve industries, the bio-, circular and green economic model, wellness, tourism and soft power.

The premier also called for cooperation from the private sector to help drive the Thai economy in 2022 and 2023, as the global economy’s prospects remain fragile, given the protracted conflicts in Eastern Europe and geopolitical risks.

“If all parties join hands together, the Thai economy can recover this year and next,” he said.

“We’ve seen a slight recovery in the tourism industry, with the number of foreign tourist arrivals likely to reach 10 million this year following the full reopening.”

Thailand recorded nearly 40 million arrivals in 2019.

Gen Prayut said the government pledges to continue improving laws and regulations to facilitate the economic restructuring to speed up Thailand’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic.

Infrastructure development, R&D and human resources development will also be revved up to strengthen the Thai economy in the long term, he said.

Kriengkrai Thiennukul, the FTI’s chairman, said the federation is eager to help the government support the EV industry, which is among 12 targeted S-curve industries, as well as create more innovations to strengthen the Thai economy.

The EV industry has the potential to be a key economic driver in the future, a prospect that led the FTI and government to discuss the development of the domestic EV market, he said.

“The FTI and the government agreed to first create demand for EVs to draw more investment in EV-related businesses,” said Mr Kriengkrai.

The federation previously urged the Thai government to speed up its EV development to stay ahead of Indonesia if it wants to become a regional EV production hub.

While Thailand is good at manufacturing cars and auto parts, Indonesia is rich in the resources required to serve the EV industry, he said. The country has nickel, which is used in the production of lithium batteries.

Mr Kriengkrai said the EV industry can create more jobs in Thailand.

There are currently more than 700,000 workers in the automotive industry.

The skills of these workers can be developed to align with the new car technology, which will eventually increase their wages, he said.