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Why Telematics Is the Key to EV Adoption in Southeast Asia

Written By: David Brown, Associate Vice President Sales, ANZ, Global Channel, Geotab


Electric vehicles (EVs) are growing in popularity, and it is clear they will play a major role in transport in Southeast Asia in the years to come. In fact, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently agreed to develop a regional EV ecosystem, formalising an existing region-wide push towards more environmentally friendly vehicles.

Even so, EVs currently account for less than 2% of cars in Southeast Asia, and the infrastructure needed to support them is still in its infancy.

For fleet managers, the decision to make the switch is a complicated one because they need to ensure the EVs not only reduce their carbon footprint, but also achieve the same operational objectives in a cost-effective manner.

For this reason, telematics is essential, as it empowers fleet managers to make the right decision about which cars they buy and which ones they retire.

A Fast-Growing Market

EVs are gaining momentum in Southeast Asia, driven by growing concern over carbon emissions among businesses, governments, and consumers. Thailand and Indonesia have the largest domestic markets, with each selling close to a million units a year.

The region is also becoming a hub for manufacturing. In fact, by 2025 Indonesia aims to export 200,000 EVs, which is roughly 20% of all its car exports. In May 2022, Indonesia signed a deal with Tesla to build a battery and EV plant in Central Java. Vietnam’s Vinfast is attempting to sell its cars in the US, using a unique battery rental model.

But there are challenges, too. In Singapore, the country is limited by available land area for charging infrastructure. Elsewhere in the region, Indonesia and the Philippines grapple with congestion, which makes EVs less appealing, because stop-and-go traffic and frequent idling decrease their efficiency and impact battery range.

Maintenance costs might be more expensive than conventional cars due to lack of fewer experts that are trained to fix EVs. High demand for electricity during peak traffic hours might also cause a strain on the electricity infrastructure.

“Electric vehicles (EVs) are growing in popularity, and it is clear they will play a major role in transport in Southeast Asia in the years to come.”

The climate in Southeast Asia isn’t ideal either. The optimum temperature for battery performance is about 17℃, but that is cold by local standards. Singapore, for example, has not ever recorded a temperature below 19°C.

How Telematics Can Help

All of these factors make it more difficult for fleet managers to figure out how and when to make the switch from combustion engines to EVs. It is usually too expensive or impractical to switch over an entire fleet at once. But with telematics, fleet managers can make an informed decision about which cars to keep and which to retire.

Telematics combines the use of telecommunications and informatics to enable the gathering and transmission of data from vehicles. This enables remote monitoring, diagnostics, range management, charging infrastructure navigation, and predictive maintenance alerts. It also contributes to improved safety, efficiency, and convenience for the entire EV ecosystem.

It can inform business decisions for fleet managers, who need to know that the replacement vehicle will do the same job, has a comparable range, and will bring in more money for the business over the long run.

Transitioning to EVs

Telematics takes the guesswork out of this transition, allowing transparency over emissions, fuel consumption, and maintenance costs for their existing combustion-engine cars, while also helping them to assess the potential costs or savings of switching to an EV. In fact, Geotab has an Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment (EVSA) report, which gathers all that information, and compares it with the manufacturers data for electric vehicles in each country.

For example, an operator in Malaysia with 20 vehicles could go into the myGeotab platform, which is a fleet management software displaying all vehicle and driver information in one place, to run the EVSA report. Doing so tells them which vehicles are available locally, the price, and the average operating costs on a monthly basis, making it simple for them to figure out which options meet their needs.

Once they have switched to EVs, remote monitoring and diagnostics capabilities allow users to access real-time data, enabling prompt and effective vehicle maintenance. Additionally, telematics also optimizes range management, addressing the common concern of range anxiety and promoting greater confidence in EV usage.

More broadly, telematics could help to play a role in the successful integration of EVs into the transportation ecosystem by providing insights that facilitate efficient infrastructure development, fostering a more convenient and accessible EV charging network.

An Exciting Road Ahead

As the climate crisis becomes more urgent, the need for cleaner forms of transport is becoming more evident. The growth of EVs in Southeast Asia is an exciting development that could help drive growth while helping the region adhere to its carbon commitments.

Telematics will support the expansion of EVs by giving both large and small fleet managers the transparency they need to make the change successfully, and by helping governments assess their infrastructure needs.