Thailand's PTT in with 6 automakers to develop electric car sector

BANGKOK, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Thailand’s largest energy firm, PTT Pcl, on Monday signed contracts with six major automakers for cooperation in developing electric cars, opening the first in a series of electric vehicle charging stations associated with the project.

State-controlled PTT will be responsible for building a network of 20 charging stations under the accord, while the automakers pledged to develop electric vehicles (EV) and boost awareness and confidence in the Thai market, according to a joint statement.

The six firms are the Thai units of BMW Group, Mercedes Benz, Mitsubishi Motors Corp, Nissan Motor, Porsche and Volvo.

The move is in line with the Thai military government’s policy of promoting the electric vehicle industry, at the same time strengthening security of energy supply. Thailand is a regional auto industry production and export hub, and the sector accounts for around 10 percent of Thai gross domestic product.

PTT, which began researching EV technology in 2012, already operates four EV charging stations. It aimed to open two more later this year and reach 20 by 2017, Chief Executive Tevin Vonvanich said.

Meanwhile Thailand has ambitious plans to boost the number of electric cars to 1.2 million by 2036, Energy Minister Anantaporn Karnchanarat said, compared with just under 68,000 currently in the country. Sales of hybrid petrol-electric cars or plug-in hybrid cars in Thailand accounted for just 1 percent of total auto sales in 2015.

The limited number of charging stations so far has made both manufacturing and selling EVs unappealing. To help spur the industry, the government has already offered tax incentives for makers of EV auto parts, including batteries and motors. (Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)