China’s Growing EV Influence Around Asia Highlighted At San Francisco’s APEC Summit

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The 2023 APEC Summit held in San Francisco last week marked a pivotal moment in the region’s commitment to transitioning towards a sustainable transportation future. In various conferences, ASEAN leaders pledged to accelerate their adoption and foster a conducive environment for EV growth.

In a joint declaration issued at the conclusion of the summit, APEC leaders expressed their unwavering support for the advancement of sustainable transportation technologies, specifically highlighting EVs. This collective commitment signals a strong regional alliance to address the pressing environmental concerns associated with conventional vehicles.

At the summit, representatives from China’s Ministries of Transportation and of Trade actively engaged in updating already existing bilateral agreements with several APEC economies to promote EV cooperation. These agreements aim to foster collaboration in various aspects of EV development and deployment, including technology transfer, infrastructure development, and market access.

MOUs becoming realities

One notable example is the 2022 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between China and Indonesia, which outlines a comprehensive framework for cooperation in EV standards, charging infrastructure, and supply chain development. This came to fruition at last year’s APEC Summit in Bali where all the official staff electric vehicles were provided by Chinese carmaker SAIC–Wuling, which has a factory in Jawat Barat, Indonesia.

Similarly, CleanTechnica sources at the San Francisco APEC Summit said that the ministerial meeting for transportation and energy mentioned a 2021 MOU between China and Thailand which focused on EV research and development, manufacturing, and marketing. A direct result of this MOU was a 9.8 billion Thai Baht ($285 million) investment by Changan Automobile.

The new EV production facility, slated to commence operations in 2025, will boast an initial capacity of 100,000 vehicles annually, catering to both domestic and export markets. This development aligns with Thailand’s ambitious goal of becoming a leading EV manufacturing center, a vision that has been consistently championed by the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI).

Investing in the ASEAN

China’s efforts to promote EV cooperation with APEC economies also extended to Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

In 2017, Malaysian automaker Proton and Chinese carmaker Geely formed a joint venture to establish a manufacturing plant of ICE vehicles in Malaysia which is already operational and produces re-badged Geelys for the Malaysian domestic market.

In 2019, China and Malaysia signed an MOU to facilitate EV technology transfer, talent development, and market access. This prompted the Proton–Geely joint venture to target the production of EVs for both the domestic and right-hand drive export markets. So far, nothing has materialized, but CleanTechnica contacts at the APEC transportation ministerial meeting point to strengthening and pushing forward the EV project in Malaysia with even more Chinese investments.

Another MOU signed between China and the Philippines which aimed to enhance collaboration in EV standards, infrastructure development, and financing has already brought in more investments to the country, backed by Executive Order No. 12, signed into law last February by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. which offer incentives in both import duties, registration, vehicle operation, and development of charging stations, with the aim of having 50% of registered vehicles in the country being electric.

Of the countries in the ASEAN, Vietnam is making the fastest progress both domestically and with respect to MOUs — some were signed with Chinese EV firms as early as 2017. However, it is the presence of VinFast and its visionary approach to vehicle development that has made Vietnam a leader in EVs — encompassing private cars, buses, and scooters. The company’s commitment to cutting-edge technology and design is evident in its sleek and sophisticated EV models. Domestically, the VF e34 and VF e35 are winners. And though the VF8 has been much maligned in the tough US market, VinFast is not discouraged and continues to improve its products and services, with an ongoing project to build a plant in North Carolina to supply the US market.

These bilateral agreements underscore China’s commitment to sharing its EV expertise and technology with other APEC economies, and fostering a more sustainable transportation future for the region. As China’s EV industry continues to grow, the country is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the global EV landscape.

Harmonizing EV standards, creating the supply chain

To ensure seamless integration and compatibility across APEC economies, ministers agreed upon a set of principles to guide the development of EV standards. This harmonization will not only reduce costs but also promote the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, paving the way for a unified regional charging infrastructure.

Recognizing the importance of a robust EV supply chain, APEC countries launched a new initiative aimed at cultivating the necessary skills and expertise for EV manufacturing and maintenance. This initiative will also identify opportunities for collaboration between businesses across APEC economies, fostering a vibrant EV ecosystem.

To support the growth of the EV sector, APEC leaders called for increased public and private investment in EV infrastructure and technology. This investment will be crucial in establishing a comprehensive charging network and accelerating the development of innovative EV technologies. This comes hand in hand with advocating for the removal of barriers to trade and investment in the EV sector. This move will promote a level playing field for EV businesses, encouraging cross-border collaboration and innovation.

To charge up the promotion of EVs, the APEC Electric Vehicles Investment Facilitation Network was established. The network will provide essential information and support to investors, facilitating public-private partnerships and driving investment in EV infrastructure and technology.

APEC Electric Vehicles Roadmap

The APEC Electric Vehicles Roadmap, a strategic plan outlining a vision for the development and deployment of EVs across the region, was the final result of days of transportation ministerial meetings. This roadmap includes the big EV-producing nations — China and the US — and will impact the ASEAN region because of its target of achieving 30% of new light-duty vehicles sold in APEC economies being electric by 2030.

The APEC Electric Vehicles Roadmap includes a number of specific initiatives to support the development and deployment of EVs in the region. These initiatives include: 1) promoting the development of EV standards and regulations, 2) supporting the development of EV charging infrastructure, 3) encouraging investment in EV technology, and 4) fostering cooperation among APEC economies on EV development.

The APEC Electric Vehicles Roadmap is a significant step forward in promoting the adoption of EVs in the APEC region. The roadmap is expected to help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the region and improve air quality.

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