T HE CACOPHONY of small-vehicle engines and horns is one of the most recognisable noises in traffic-choked cities across Asia. Soon that trademark roar may be a thing of the past, even if the horns remain. A wave of cross-border ventures for electric two- and three-wheelers, and the infrastructure required to power them, is rippling across the continent.
The electrification of scooters, motorcycles and auto-rickshaws in poor and middle-income countries is proceeding much more zippily than for larger motors. In China, the biggest market in the world for electric vehicles, about half of two- and three-wheeled machines sold were battery-powered in 2021, compared with 16% of new passenger cars. In India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, where two-wheelers outnumber cars by between three and 30 to one, electrifying them can help countries decarbonise and limit air pollution in cities.
That makes the recent flurry of dealmaking a welcome development. On September 6th GoTo Group of Indonesia announced a deal with Selex Motors, a Vietnamese producer of electric bikes and networks of so-called “battery ATMs”. Gojek, GoTo’s ride-hailing arm, will use Selex’s bikes and charging infrastructure in Vietnam. When its electric vehicles run out of juice, drivers can exchange the removable units for fully charged ones at swap stations. In late August Kymco, a large motorcycle-maker from Taiwan, announced a deal with a Thai state-owned energy firm, PTT, to produce new electric two-wheelers and the battery-swapping services to go with them. Around the same time another Taiwanese company, Gogoro, finalised a joint venture with Ayala, a Philippine conglomerate. This would expand what Gogoro claims is already the largest single battery-swapping network in the world, with more than 12,000 racks, carrying between eight and ten batteries apiece, across more than 2,500 locations in Taiwan.