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Electric Vehicles Make Their Mark Among Southeast Asian Drivers, Survey Finds

Electric vehicles, or EVs, have become increasingly popular in markets like China and the US, and the success of companies like Tesla has heightened awareness and demand for them. A new survey conducted by the BMW Group in four Southeast Asian countries found that 78% of the participants agreed that EVs “contribute to a more desirable and environmentally conscious world”. The study also found that drivers surveyed had a strong awareness of the advantages, challenges and needs connected with having EVs.

Electric vehicle charging device
Credit: BMW Group

The BMW study covered 4,000 drivers, 70% of whom had driver’s licenses, in four major Southeast Asian car markets: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. 69% of those surveyed were aware of battery-powered EVs. The online survey was primarily focused on drivers’ interest in owning and using EVs and various issues surrounding their decision-making on that front. While drivers generally agreed that EVs had a strong environmental impact, only 41% of respondents said that they would be interested in switching to EVs for that reason. What remains an obstacle for 45% of those surveyed is the cost of purchasing an EV.

Maintenance and customer support was an important factor the BMW study cited as a reason for drivers to make the switch to EVs. For instance, 42% of drivers wanted long warranty periods of up to ten years as an assurance that their vehicles could properly be maintained by service centres. Other factors that would drive those surveyed to buy an EV include having widely available charging stations (which is now the case in established EV markets), purchasing and maintenance costs, government incentives and vehicle performance.

These findings confirm other studies showing that the EV market is already quite strong in the region and has the potential for growth. According to a study by Mordor Intelligence, the market was worth US$10 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow by 10% a year. The strong interest in these vehicles among potential buyers that the BMW survey found confirms how the market is driving awareness of EVs. It helps that government incentives exist for EV buyers. In Singapore, which is expected to lead market growth in Southeast Asia, the government is introducing incentives such as rebates of up to 45% on the additional registration fee, reducing upfront costs for these vehicles. As of the period from January to June 2021, 1.3% of all vehicles registered in the country are EVs, compared to just 0.3% in all of 2020.

Hyundai EV manufacturing plant
A new EV manufacturing facility in Indonesia (Credit: Hyundai)

Other market surveys by competing EV manufacturers point out that increased interest and demand is for EVs is the case in other markets not covered by the BMW survey. A study conducted by Nissan found that, in the Philippines, 85% of those surveyed were aware of battery-powered EVs and 51% were “certainly” interested in purchasing an EV over the next three years. Vietnam, on the other hand, had a significantly higher number of drivers wanting to buy EVs, with 7 out of 10 reporting very strong interest.

With the BMW survey and other recent market research, it is clear that drivers throughout Southeast Asia want to use EVs. While pioneers like Tesla have not yet given strong attention to this market, established brands like BMW, Toyota, Hyundai and Honda are paving the way for wider EV adoption. Drivers are getting the message, and the future looks bright for the EV market in this region.

  • A study by BMW showed that a significant number of drivers surveyed in four Southeast Asian countries expressed both awareness of and willingness to purchase electric vehicles (EVs).

  • One strong concern for potential EV buyers was these vehicles’ positive environmental impact, with 78% of drivers agreeing that EVs promote a healthier and cleaner world.

  • The Southeast Asian EV market was worth US$10 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow by 10% a year.

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