Electric Vehicle production to start in Bangladesh.

A youngster dreams of owning a car after their graduation. However, for a middle class family, purchasing and maintaining a car is a difficult process, as their limited income make it difficult to afford a car’s heavy import duty laden price tag.

Interestingly two local automobile companies are showing to courage to manufacture electric vehicle (EV) despite being well informed about the demand size of passenger car.

According to them the market demand of car will surpass the present demand within five to 10 years if people can buy them at a reasonable price. On this back drop, the two companies are setting up to manufacture EV for Bangladesh market.

Of them Bangladesh Auto Industries Ltd (BAIL) is all set to make EV from next year with an initial investment of $200 million.

They argued that a locally manufactured will be reasonably priced and the middle class can afford them due low maintenance cost.

The facilities, civil work and utility connection of the proposed plant at the Mirsarai economic zone in Chattogram which will be completed by December this year, said Mir Masud Kabir, managing director of BAIL.

“We will install the manufacturing equipment by March next year and the manufacturing will begin in June.”

BAIL will manufacture two-wheelers, three-wheelers, sedan, hatchback and sport utility vehicle (SUV) and has plans to produce pick-ups, mini-trucks and multipurpose vehicles.

Leading local telecom service provider Mango Teleservices Ltd holds a majority share in BAIL established in November 2017.

An electric vehicle (EV) uses chemical energy stored in efficient and environment-friendly rechargeable lithium ion battery packs instead of fossil fuel to propel it.

Globally, the electric car’s share in the total automobile industry is on the rise.

At the end of 2018, it stood at 4.6 percent, almost double from what it was in 2017, according to the Centre of Automotive Management (CAM), a research and consultancy institute based in Germany.

China is leading the countries in electric car use, followed by the US, Norway, Japan and the UK. By 2025, electric cars will account for one-fourth of all new registrations, according to CAM.

Within the next 25 years all fossil fuel cars would be replaced by the EVs, it said.

Kabir said foreign partners from the US, China, India and Italy will provide technical and expert support for the facility.

The plant will manufacture almost 60 percent of the component of the vehicles, including lithium battery, motor, controller, software platform, chassis and body.

Internationally acclaimed designers have designed the initial EV models for BAIL, said Kabir.

A team of the company will lead the initiative and carry out future research and development together with foreign experts, expatriate Bangladeshis and local talents, he said.

The team will also create web-based portal for co-creation and suggestion for product and ecosystem development in order to ensure inclusive and participatory environment for the nation, he said.

The company will sell an SUV at Tk 25 lakh, sedan at Tk 12 lakh to Tk 15 lakh, hatchback at Tk 8 lakh or even less. The price of the motor cycles will be Tk 50,000 to Tk 1.5 lakh.

About the challenges of the project, Kabir said the market seems to be small at the moment. “But the market will continue expanding as the economy is growing at a steady pace.”

“There is huge regional and global potential as well.”

He said the EVs would cut fuel cost by 90 percent and per kilometre energy cost will be less than Tk 2.

“Customers will replace their fossil fuel-run vehicles with EVs thanks to lower price and cheaper fuel cost and the environmental benefits.”

According to a market analysis of BAIL, annual car sales will reach two lakh units by 2025 from about 20,000 units in 2018.

The battery capacity will be 50 kilowatt hour and it will cost Tk 400 to fully charge an EV each time as per the existing electricity tariff.

“With a twenty-minute charge, our EVs can run 400km,” Kabir said, adding that the car can be charged at home with a regular connection or at a quick charging station.

Quick charging stations will be set up on the highways, at refuelling stations, parking spaces and convenient stores. There will be provision for charged battery swap too.

The battery’s lifetime will be around 10 years, he said.

Like BAIL, Nitol Motors is set to come with a locally-assembled electric vehicle by next year, in yet another big stride for Bangladesh’s fledgling automotive industry.

Nitol’s model, which will be called Suvare, will be the size and feel of regular cars and will cost about Tk 12 lakh, said Abdul Matlub Ahmad, chairman of Nitol-Niloy Group. The maximum speed of the car will be 150 kilometres (km) per hour.

“I have set a target to bring the car to market by March 2020,” he said, adding that the venture is in partnership with one American and two Chinese companies.

The plant, which will cost Tk 350 crore, will have the capacity to assemble 20,000 units per year. Initially, about 5,000 units of only one model will be assembled.

The company has already set up a research and development centre in the capital’s Uttara, where designs for the car and other components are being developed with the mechanical department of the Dhaka University of Engineering & Technology.

The major bottleneck would be to get the EVs registered with the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) as there is no rule or policy for this new form of vehicle.

At present, BRTA gives registration on the basis of the engine of a car. Since EVs derive all power from battery packs they do not have any internal combustion engine, fuel cell or fuel tank.

With half an hour’s charge Suvare can run 200 km, according to Ahmad.

The battery capacity will be 25 kilowatt per hour and it will cost only Tk 170 to fully charge it each time as per present power tariff.

“So, Suvare will be very cost-effective and environmentally friendly,” Ahmad said, adding that the car can be charged at home with a fast-charging plug system.

The battery’s lifetime will be at least six years. In the near future EV owners can go for long drives as fast-charging stations will be set up at refilling stations along the highway.