Selex Motors, a Vietnam-based EV startup, has launched a network of battery-swapping stations dubbed battery ATMs in multiple cities across Vietnam.
The company aims to persuade Southeast Asian consumers to make the switch from conventional gasoline-powered cars to EVs by offering a convenient and economically viable solution for battery charging.
According to Asia Nikkei, Selex Motors has already supplied EVs to renowned logistics companies such as Lazada, Viettel Post, and DHL, and is now pursuing international expansion opportunities.
The introduction of these innovative ATMs in various Vietnamese cities marks a significant step towards sustainable transportation practices. Instead of dispensing cash, these stations provide fully charged EV batteries.
Supported by the Asian Development Bank, Selex Motors ensures that their EVs are priced below $1,000 and customers are not required to make upfront payments for the batteries.
Instead, a sophisticated automated locker system allows users to conveniently exchange depleted batteries for fully charged ones.
Nikkei Asia reported that Selex Motors has successfully catered to the needs of companies like Lazada, DHL, and other delivery service providers that have made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions.
Distinguishing itself as a pioneering electric vehicle manufacturer in the region, and with a strong focus on last-mile logistics services, the startup is now expanding its reach to individual consumers.
It is promoting its patented battery technology, which is compatible with approximately 70 per cent of the electric motorcycles available in the market.
During a recent interview, CEO of Selex Motors Nguyen Huu Phuoc Nguyen underscored the benefits of the battery swapping infrastructure, particularly in light of global concerns surrounding the availability of resources for battery production.
The system not only optimises battery lifespan but also ensures efficient disposal when batteries reach the end of their life cycle, thus addressing environmental concerns.
Crunchbase reports that, currently, Schneider Electric Energy Access Asia, ADB Ventures, and Touchstone Partners are among the investors who have collectively injected $5.5 million into Selex Motors.
In early 2022, Selex Motors concluded a seed funding round worth $2.1 million, led by investment firm Touchstone Partners and with the participation of two other investors, ADB Ventures and South Korea's Nextrans.
Competitors in the Vietnamese electric motorcycle market, such as Dat Bike and VinFast, are also striving to accelerate the adoption of EVs.
Nevertheless, Nikkei Asia noted that not all industry players share Selex Motors' approach. Tech giants have employed strategies to retain their customer base by locking users into their proprietary ecosystems, prompting regulatory intervention.
In the US, Tesla was urged to open its charging stations to other vehicle brands, while in Europe, Apple was mandated to design chargers that are compatible with various phone models.
When queried about whether Selex's interchangeable batteries could serve as an incentive for drivers to choose their EVs over their competitors', Nguyen emphasised the communal advantages by stating, "That is the crux of the matter. We aim for the widespread adoption and utilisation of the battery exchange network because it benefits the entire community."
He harbours aspirations of achieving breakeven within a 3-year timeframe and expanding into the Indonesian and Thai markets within two years. Both countries boast larger economies than Vietnam, but also present competition from rivals like Electrum – backed by Gojek.
Although Selex Motors did not disclose the number of electric motorcycles sold by the company, Vietnam currently boasts an electric motorcycle fleet exceeding one million units – purportedly the largest in Southeast Asia.
In addition to contending with industry giants such as Honda and Piaggio in the motorcycle sector, Nguyen acknowledges the pressing race for the resources that are essential for battery production.
Vietnam is ramping up its efforts to develop rare earth elements, but China leads in terms of both mining and processing these metals. In addition, the world relies heavily on Congo's cobalt and Indonesia's nickel.
"This will be a long-term issue because it appears that the EV revolution is contingent upon resources and certain minerals, which are not readily available in many places. They are primarily concentrated in a few countries, and this will inevitably lead to geopolitical complications," stated Nguyen.
As the competition in the electric motorcycle market intensifies, Selex Motors remains committed to innovation and addressing environmental concerns. By providing affordable EVs and establishing a widespread network of battery-swapping stations, the company strives to revolutionise transportation practices throughout Vietnam and beyond.
The support from notable investors, combined with the company's ambitious expansion plans, position Selex Motors as a key player in the region's electric vehicle landscape.
The successful adoption of electric motorcycles and the proliferation of battery swapping infrastructure could significantly contribute to reducing carbon emissions, enhancing air quality, and promoting sustainable mobility solutions.
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