What does Electric Mobility mean in South East Asia?

Electric vehicles are disrupting two of the largest industries in the world - oil & gas and automotive. Electric vehicles have been around viably for 2 decades now, but the adoption rates are still low. This is an opinion piece on how motorbikes should be the primary focus for electrification of transport, how good electric motorbikes already exist but how a good light electric vehicle infrastructure does not exist hindering the much-needed adoption of electric motorbikes in South East Asia and the world.

Globally, there are more motorbikes than any other type of motorized vehicle. Why is the automotive industry ignoring motorbikes? Specifically, in Asia, where 60% of the global population live, work, and travel, motorbikes dominate transportation. In fact, in most countries where GDP per capita is lower than the world average, motorbikes to car ratio is very high. Also, motorbikes emit more greenhouse gases per person than cars. Motorbikes are a huge market, for the people that own motorbikes it is here to stay, and ownership models are not shifting towards a shared economy in this sector. Let me take the example of Indonesia. There are 140 million bikes for a population of 270 million people. This means 75% of the population who can ride some vehicle has a motorbike each! Average salaries in Indonesia are low. This makes owning bikes an undertaking already. One would need to work out a 2- or 3- year payment plan with the dealership or a bank. People in South East Asia still prefer to own a vehicle rather than share one. South East Asia is a very price-sensitive market. We look for the best bargain in everything. When shared mobility is introduced to this market, people here will do the math and it will be understood very quickly that owning a device is worth the investment compared to renting, leasing or sharing.

Good electric motorbikes are already here. There are quite a few companies around the world who design, manufacture and are ready to sell electric motorbikes – Gogoro in Taiwan, Niu in China, Zero in USA, Vostok in Spain, Edison Motors in Thailand, Ather in India, Gesits in Indonesia, RedE in France and the list goes on. There are enough manufacturers of electric motorbikes. In comparison to petrol motorbikes, price parity, performance parity and abundance of options already exists.

When I talk to customers, the first question that arises is – how do I charge my bike? We need an infrastructure option that works for electric motorbikes. What infrastructure exists today? This is the Combo 2 charger which has been standardized with policies built around them in many countries including Singapore. It is slowly being introduced in parking lots, homes and even petrol stations. When we add this to motorbikes, they take up way too much space, probably about the same as the motor. It will add significant costs and complexity too. So, let us take into consideration that Combo 2 chargers are expensive, are intrinsically low in utilization rate because of long charging times, bulky and complicated. Let us also consider that electric motorbikes are built with simple, light, removable and swappable battery packs. With these, the obvious way forward would be battery swapping. Imagine running an electric motorbike like a petrol motorbike, but instead of the petrol station one goes to a battery swapping station like a vending machine and swaps the battery pack for a fully charged one in less than 1 minute. If this infrastructure is setup in convenient road-accessible locations, one can forget about range anxiety, charging time and other general infrastructure worries. Battery swapping is also much cheaper than petrol and provides a better experience than charging. It is a simple, above-ground, low-footprint solution and is significantly cheaper than setting up charging points everywhere.

Therefore, my co-founder and I started Reit EV. Reit EV is an energy infrastructure company that enables mass adoption of electric motorbikes in South East Asia and the world. Being motorbike manufacturer agnostic, we have developed in-house an intuitive, fully automated battery swapping solution both hardware and software. It is highly customizable and easily scalable. We built our solutions in accordance with the international regulations in mind, so our solution is future proof as well.

In conclusion – there needs to be more focus on motorbikes to truly electrify transport in the world, good electric motorbikes already exist but their adoption is low because of lack of infrastructure, a sensible infrastructure for light electric vehicles like motorbikes is battery swapping and my co-founder and I built Reit EV specifically to solve the lack of light electric vehicle infrastructure.

It wouldn’t be prudent of me if I don’t sell Reit EV at this point. We are an 8-month young company with a lean team of 3 people. We are providing solutions to more than 7 companies and 4 markets around the world. In this, Plug and Play has been very helpful in introducing us to some very relevant potential partners in CP Group and Filinvest as part of their Smart Cities Thailand program. Hopefully, in a few months, we will be running pilot projects to showcase our solution in Thailand and Philippines, along with our upcoming one in Indonesia. If you like our company and are interested to learn more about, partner with, or invest in us, please contact me at raj@reitev.com.


Natarajan Srinivasan is the Director, Co-founder, and CEO of Reit EV.

Reit EV is a part of our Batch 1 Smart Cities Program in Thailand.