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Energizing the Future: ASEAN’s Groundbreaking Initiative Towards a Sustainable Automotive Revolution

    President Joko Widodo with Mrs. Iriana and ASEAN leaders are on the Ayana Lako Di'a pinisi ship during the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara, Wednesday (10/5/2023) (Kompas/Heru Sri Kumoro).
    President Joko Widodo with Mrs. Iriana and ASEAN leaders are on the Ayana Lako Di’a pinisi ship during the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, West Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara, Wednesday (10/5/2023) ( Sri Kumoro).

    Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this: it’s a serene morning, and you step outside your home. The air is remarkably clean, crisp, and invigorating. Birds sing their melodies without competition from the usual uproar of engines. The streets are bustling with electric vehicles, their quiet motors whispering progress. The days of respiratory masks and health hazards are behind us, replaced by a sense of liberation as we navigate cleaner, greener streets.

    This is not a distant dream, but a reality that could potentially happen in the upcoming years after the ASEAN Leaders’ meeting declaring a comprehensive plan for an Electric Vehicle ecosystem in the “Declaration on Developing Regional Electric Vehicle (EV) Ecosystem.”

    This initiative was discussed during the 42nd ASEAN Summit on 10-11 May 2023 in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. ASEAN delegates recalled the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025, which envisages embracing sustainable transport as a new key sectoral focus, recognizing its vital role in the sustainable development of the ASEAN region.

    In a nutshell, ASEAN leaders have agreed to foster cooperation and collaboration to develop the EV ecosystem. This encompasses incentivizing the engagement of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), fostering joint efforts in research and development, and advancing investment prospects.

    This plan enables numerous potentials of Southeast Asia to become the next epicenter of EV technology development, unleashing various opportunities for countries, private sectors, international organizations, and even SMEs to collaborate and achieve these grand dreams. 

    “Let us work closely together, develop a shared agenda, and ensure that the region continues to be the epicenter of growth,” stated President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, during the opening speech at the ASEAN leaders’ meeting with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council. 

    There are at least two main reasons why ASEAN should develop an EV ecosystem. 

    First, to secure energy security and reduce the region’s dependence on fossil fuels, increasing its energy independence. Second, to achieve economic integration, as the development of the EV ecosystem suggests the potential to create an enabling environment for investment in developing the EV supply chain in the region.

    But what’s truly groundbreaking about this declaration is the unity it exemplifies. Diverse nations, each with unique narratives, stand together to write a collective story of innovation. It’s a symphony of ideas, harmonizing to create a future where sustainability and progress coexist.

    Photo by Mike Bird (Pexels)
    Photo by Mike Bird (Pexels)

    In recent years, the electric vehicle (EV) trend has taken root across the ASEAN region. Anticipated within the forecast period, the ASEAN Electric Vehicle Market is set to expand from USD 0.86 billion in 2023 to USD 3.54 billion by 2028, reflecting a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 32.73%. Especially in Indonesia, the popularity of EVs is on the rise. Ride-hailing firms like Grab are enhancing their fleet’s charging infrastructure, while public transportation operators are strategizing to amplify their electric bus fleet to 10,000 units. This trend is projected to be replicated in various other nations.

    However, transitioning to an EV ecosystem presents challenges. Comprehensive infrastructure, including extensive charging networks, hinders EV adoption. Fiscal incentives remain vital across ASEAN nations, as many still rely on them for accessibility. Additionally, overcoming the traditional preference for non-renewable vehicles requires both technological advancement and a cultural shift towards sustainable alternatives.

    The Association of Indonesian Automotive Manufacturers (Gaikindo) secretary-general, Kukuh Kumara, stated that to manifest this grand plan, it needs to be followed up with tangible action to avoid letting such great potential slip away. This is highlighted by making strategic planning and road-mapping industries. He exemplified how each ASEAN country has different capacities; for instance, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam have an automotive base production, while Indonesia could provide raw materials for making EV batteries. Connecting the opportunity dots between countries suggests an effective way to achieve the end goal for all.

    As the sun sets on the horizon of the ASEAN region, a new dawn of transformation emerges. The comprehensive plan for an Electric Vehicle ecosystem resonates as a clarion call to action. It is a testament to the unity, collaboration, and shared aspirations of diverse nations striving to redefine the future of mobility and sustainability. However, one question lingers: How will we, as individuals and communities, drive the momentum toward a future where sustainability is steering the course?

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