Nissan is scoping out the electric car market in Bangkok. It just signed a memorandum of understanding with the Metropolitan Electricity Authority there to test the Nissan LEAF.
“We have started by readying the infrastructure in order to make sure that Nissans electric vehicle technology will respond to customer requirements effectively and gain positive response in the Thai market,” said Nissan Motors Thailand president Takayuki Kimura.
A pure electric vehicle is unlikely to be popular with Thai consumers, said Paul Blokland, director at Segment Y, a Bangkok-based consultancy. Bangkok is hot and humid. Temperatures soar to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, and the humidity means running a car’s AC full-blast most of the time. Now add relatively long commuting distances for many Thai drivers. “These are not ideal conditions for electric vehicles,” Blokland told PluginCars.com. To date, four LEAFs have been sold in Thailand, all in 2012, said Blokland. The LEAF might make sense in Bangkok as part of a “mobility package” that included another car, he said.
“Whether that would fly in Thailand, I don’t know.” Lower taxes on hybrid gas-electric vehicles—the non-plug-in variety—make then fairly popular in Thailand, said Blokland.
“The Thai customer is not that interested in the technology, but they like the fact that they can get a Camry or a Jazz [sold as Fit here] effectively at a discount,” he said.
No plug-in electric vehicles are currently for sale in Thailand, said Benjamin Asher, an analyst in LMC Auto’s Thailand office. As for the suitability of the market for pure electric vehicles, he agrees with Blokland that demand is likely to be low among consumers. People are moving to the suburbs, and “long traffic jams with air conditioning on full would no doubt take a toll on the battery,” Asher told PluginCars.com.