“Electric Vehicle” or EV becomes highly popular in Thailand and all around the world due to “global warming” trend. It is undeniable that “transportation” is a sector that releases a large amount of pollutant to environment. Nonetheless, EV technology in the present is still very expensive. It is also difficult for most of Thais to own this kind of vehicle because the EV must be imported from abroad.

         Being partly supported by Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC); National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), has studied and developed major parts used for modifying old vehicles to be electric vehicles. A cost of modification per one vehicle is set to be not over than Baht 200,000 excluding battery. During 2517 - 2520, NECTEC has planned to develop EV Kit and Blueprint as well.

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         EGAT team had a chance to talk to Mr. Sutat Pathomnupong, a head of the Industrial Prototype and Product Laboratory, Thailand Science Park, Khlong Luang District, Pathum Thani Province. He is a researcher of NECTEC who participates in the electric vehicle conversion project. Mr. Sutat presented his private 4-door sedan; Honda City that was modified to be an electric car which has been used daily for about 5 years. He invested by himself on such car modification in order to be a prototype EV.

         What Is an Electric Vehicle Conversion?

         Mr. Sutat said that the electric vehicle conversion was a car modified from the old vehicle to be the electric vehicle: EV. It is driven by an electric motor instead of its old engine.

         According to the electric vehicle conversion project mutually developed by EGAT and NECTEC, major existing functions in the old car such as air-conditioner, radio and electric systems are maintained. Thus, the EV could be an option for car users. Currently, the EV’s price starts from over Baht 1 million.

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Mr. Sutat Pathomnupong, Head of the Industrial Prototype and Product Laboratory, Thailand Science Park

         “Battery” Is an Essential of the Electric Vehicle

         Mr. Sutat added that his modified EV was driven by a lead–acid battery which was not expensive and generally available on the market. However, he suggested that a “lithiumion” battery should be used with the EV in the future because it could be completely charged faster and work longer. As the lithium-ion battery’s density is better, it becomes lighter with longer usable period. However, since its quality is superior, its price is higher as well.

         In the future, the lithium-ion battery with better innovation could be applied simply, while its price would be lowered. As the battery becomes cheaper with better performance, people can access to alternative energy more easily. In year 2020, the lithium-ion battery which is expected to be able to cover distances of over 200 kilometers per a single charge, will cost not higher than Baht 200,000.

         Battery Charging Time Depends on Its Type and Capacity

         There are 2 battery charging types for the EV:

         Type 1: a normal charge with low-voltage electric power supplied to households. It takes about 6-8 hours to complete the charging.

         Type 2: a quick charge with high-voltage power by a battery charger. It would take no longer than 30 minutes to heighten energy up to 80% of the battery capacity. This type of battery charging is available at the public charging station.

         The quick charge can be applied with battery that can accommodate a large amount of power charged within a short period. Normally it must be the lithium-ion battery.

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         EV’s Lifespan Is around 10 Years

         The EV’s lifespan depends directly on battery. According to Mr. Sutat’s 5-year experience on using the EV, its part such as a motor inverter can still work well. Since the EV does not cause excessive heat, its parts and equipment will deteriorate more slowly. The most significant part, therefore, is the battery lifespan improvement. The lifespan of the electric vehicles in the present is estimated to be around 10 years. Thus, the battery lifespan should be developed to last for not less than 10 years as well.

         Benefits of the Electric Vehicle Conversion Development

         The electric vehicle conversion is an option for anyone who desires to use the EV, but does not want to buy a new car. This is like modifying fuel systems of cars by using gas instead of petrol. The electric vehicle conversion development facilitates the users as they are able to have their cars modified by replacing deteriorated engines with the electric motors.

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         The Electric Vehicle Conversion Abroad

         The EV manufacture in the present was originated from the modification of cars that used fossil fuels to be electric cars. People, especially who live in the USA, may be familiar with the Tesla Motors, Inc. led by Elon Musk, the CEO and JB Straubel, the CTO. JB modified his motorcar to be the electric car when he was 19 years old. The electric vehicle advancement is his ambition. Finally, he has applied his experiences on the Tesla electric car technology development.

         Challenges on the Electric Vehicle Conversion Research and Development in Thailand

         Due to amenity and traffic suitability, the consumers nowadays prefer to use automatic transmission cars to manual transmission cars. However, the automatic transmission car, which is modified to be the EV electric, consumes more power than the manual transmission car. Therefore, battery used for the EV modified from the automatic transmission car must be smaller, but store more energy. Subsequently, more number of them could be installed in the EV and energize it for a longer distance per one time of charging.

         Mr. Sutat opined that the electric vehicle conversion in Thailand could be further developed. Thai automobile researchers and inventors should be continually promoted in order that Thailand can have its own EV innovation in the near future. Once we have our EV technology in hand, we do not need to depend on technology from overseas. The electric vehicle conversion could become popular if the modifying cost is worthwhile. If the cost is not much different from buying the new car, the consumers certainly would prefer to get the new car. Thus, the automobile researchers and developers should mainly focus on domestic equipment manufacture.

         Therefore, Thai EV technology with affordable price is good news for those who are interested in the EV. However, Mr. Sutat Pathomnupong concluded that in order to boost bright future for the EV in Thailand, all relevant sectors should consider on other contexts such as laws, the country policy, marketing and economic outlook.

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