BANGKOK/JAKARTA/SINGAPORE — Services using electric motorcycles are increasingly finding their way in Southeast Asia, the world’s third largest market for two-wheeled vehicles.
Gojek, a top ride-hailing service operator in Indonesia, is to replace all two-wheelers with electric motorbikes by 2030. Companies in other business sectors are also launching services with electric bikes. That, along with the introduction of e-bikes by vehicle-based transportation services companies, is adding fuel to the trend of electrification in the two-wheeled vehicle market.
Aswi Saiful, a 25-year-old Gojek driver in the central area of Indonesian capital Jakarta, has recently changed his gasoline-powered two-wheeler to an e-bike made by Taiwan’s Gogoro. He used to spend 100,000 rupiahs ($6.56) every few days on gasoline, but the cost has now roughly halved. “I can save money, and customers welcome a bike without exhaust fumes,” he said with a smile.
The use of electric motorbikes is gathering steam in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest two-wheeler market with annual sales of more than 5 million units.
Gojek plans to replace all of its two-wheelers with e-bikes by 2030. The company is reported to have more than 2 million registered drivers of motorbikes and automobiles. The move is expected to greatly contribute to the Indonesian government’s target of having 9 million electric motorcycles on the road by 2030.
Gojek is expanding the procurement of e-bikes. It has founded the Electrum joint venture to produce electric motorcycles, and signed a strategic tie-up agreement with Gogoro. With construction on a plant in the province of West Java having started in late June, Electrum is expected to set an initial production target of 250,000 units per year. The new plant “will increase the availability of EVs throughout the country and encourage EV adoption among Indonesians,” Electrum President Pandu Sjahrir said.
Leading Singapore-based ride-hailing company Grab will also promote the introduction of e-bikes in various countries in a bid to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2040. In Malaysia, Grab will encourage its roughly 80,000 drivers to use electric motorcycles from Chinese brand Blue Shark, produced by a subsidiary of auto parts producer EP Manufacturing with whom it has teamed up.
In Thailand, Grab plans to raise the ratio of e-bikes and electric vehicles to 10% of the total by 2026. The bikes alone will be introduced for tens of thousands of drivers, a local Grab official said.
Lazada, a major e-commerce company based in Singapore, is expected to introduce 15,000 electric motorcycles for home delivery of merchandize through a tie-up with a startup offering the two-wheelers in Indonesia.
The introduction of e-bikes is accelerating due to a growing need globally to decarbonize, and because the cost of adopting and maintaining them is almost the same as for gasoline-fueled equivalents.
According to Nomura Research Institute, the cost of using e-bikes is comparable to running gasoline vehicles, with a daily travel distance of about 150 km — the average distance traveled by commercial vehicle drivers — and they are therefore not seen as a big financial burden.
Electricity bills in Southeast Asian nations are lower than those in developed countries, partly because Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia are rich in natural gas, coal and other resources.
In Southeast Asia, the market size of mobility-as-a-service, which uses two-wheelers and other vehicles for transport, will grow about 30% from 2022 to $29.1 billion in 2027, according to German research company Statista. Active players in delivery services include Gojek, Grab and Line Man.
Electric motorcycles “are not used for commuting and other daily purposes at present,” but mainly by those who travel long distances overall, such as drivers delivering food and other items especially in urban areas, according to Akira Miyakoshi of the Japan External Trade Organization, who is familiar with the two-wheeler market.
In expectation of an increase in the use of e-bikes, leasing services are being launched by companies in a range of sectors.
A subsidiary of Bangchak, a Thai state-owned oil refinery, has purchased 2,000 Chinese-made e-bikes. Charlie, 45, who works as a Grab driver in downtown Bangkok, uses ones of its leased bikes. The service is “attractive because I only make a monthly payment, without [needing to] borrow money,” he said.
Others companies, including Thai state-owned oil and gas outfit PTT, have also begun leasing e-bikes.