A Japan-Bangladesh joint venture yesterday launched batteries for electric vehicles, locally known as easy bikes, to cater to a market with Tk 1,000 crore in annual sales.
“We want to improve the economic situation and livelihood of drivers of electric vehicles by providing them with good-quality batteries,” Akihiro Ueda, business development manager of Terra Motors, Japan's electric vehicle maker, said at a media briefing.
The press meet was organised to unveil the 50:50 partnership between Terra Motors and Rahimafrooz to make batteries for the electric bikes that have emerged as a major mode of public transport in towns and suburbs. Currently, about 450,000 easy bikes are plying throughout the country and the market for such vehicles is expanding by 30,000 units a year.
The sector requires 12 lakh pieces of battery a year, which is mostly supplied by Chinese makers, according to officials of Rahimafrooz.
The joint venture Terra-Rahimafrooz Ltd said it would sell its battery for easy bikes under the name Fujiyama.
Ueda cited the recent terror attack in Dhaka's upscale area Gulshan that claimed the lives of seven Japanese nationals and said his company is going to stay here to be part of the development of Bangladesh.
He said some companies initially decided to leave but later changed their minds.
“People are not willing to leave this country,” said Ueda, who is also the sales and marketing director of Runner Terra EV Ltd, another joint venture between Terra and local motorcycle manufacturer Runner Automobile Ltd. Runner Terra plans to start making electric vehicles, particularly three-wheelers, to cater to the local market. “We are planning to start localisation of easy bikes as it would be cheaper than importing them,” he said.
The expansion of easy bikes has created thousands of jobs in rural and suburban areas, said Faraaz A Rahim, head of business development of Rahimafrooz Storage and Power Division.
“It has become a faster, safer and more affordable means of transportation in district and upazilas,” he said, adding that easy bikes have zero pollution.
Air pollution has dropped significantly in Rajshahi city for an extensive use of easy bikes, Rahim said.
He, however, said the sector is completely unorganised, although it has the potential to generate employment. Subsequently, he urged the government to develop standards for electric vehicles and components so that the sector flourishes in an organised manner.
“India has already developed standards for such vehicles,” Rahim added.
The total load for 450,000 EV batteries is only 3 percent of the generated power at present, which is about 400 MW at any point of time, said Sayeed Hassan, chief operating officer of Rahimafrooz Storage and Power Division.
But owners of electric vehicles usually charge their batteries at night, so it does not have any impact at peak time, according to the Rahimafrooz officials.
“This is an off-peak load, which is actually desirable for the grid.”