Embracing sustainable mobility can help Bangkok residents breathe cleaner air

Adopting electric vehicles and creating better infrastructure for e-mobility will reduce air pollution in Thailand’s capital city

A decade ago, Bangkok was among the few cities in Asia where residents could breathe cleaner air because of a ban on polluting vehicles. Since then, the environment has changed.

Growing urbanization, a surge in industrial activity and rising vehicular traffic have led to higher levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and pollutants across the developing world. Major Asian economies such as China have implemented policies for cleaner air over the last five years with mixed results. Official data in January showed that air pollution in several northern Chinese cities were higher than last year.

Bangkok has faced a similar situation. Over the last few years, Thailand’s capital city has been faced with deteriorating air quality, which has left authorities trying new strategies to mitigate the problem. According to Thailand’s Pollution Control Department, about 60 percent of the air pollution in Bangkok is caused by vehicle emissions. The rest is caused by construction activities and factory emissions.

To improve its air quality, Bangkok authorities have used cloud seedings, water cannons and drones. These steps might bring short-lived relief, but to clean up the tiny particulate matter known as PM 2.5, which can cause lasting damage to lungs, a long-term strategy needs to be devised and implemented as soon as possible.

Other cities in the world have managed to combat this challenge. For instance, in Paris, the mayor made public transport free, to encourage more people to commute on trains and buses, instead of driving their fossil-fueled vehicles. This made a difference.

Sustainable transportation has a key role in combating the problem of air pollution. Electric vehicles (EV) can be a timely and practical solution for Bangkok. Such vehicles are already popular: e-scooter and e-car brands are household names in the city. However, these recent innovations have yet to become competitive in the mass market and the limited number of existing charging stations means long commutes can be challenging.

To help the city grow sustainably, e-buses should also be a part of the public transport system. Investing in e-buses, alongside technologies like flash-charging stations and related infrastructure, is worth the public spend. The recent approvals of three EV projects, including charging stations by the Thailand Board of Investment, is evidence that the number of charging stations in the country is expanding at a faster rate. The shared charging stations at designated bus stops will not only help to reduce public investment but will also help improve the city’s air quality.

ABB has been a pioneer in enabling smarter, greener and emission free transport networks across the globe through our EV charging infrastructure and our ABB Ability™ platform, which provides a scalable, end-to-end network management for commercial vehicles such as buses.

Launched in 2017, ABB’s TOSA (Trolly bus Optimisation System Alimentation) solution has made it possible to flash-charge a bus in just 20 seconds. This means a bus can charge up at stops, while passengers get on and off. The charging station also allows a vehicle to use smaller batteries, allowing more room for passengers. Using this technology, a stop at the bus stop will become more valuable than just letting passengers get on and disembark. Another option is OppCharging, similar in concept to flash-charging but occurring only at the bus terminal in sessions lasting three to six minutes via an overhead pantograph. Placing charging stations at end stops minimizes impact on route schedules.

Under both charging options, battery-powered electric buses have no need for overhead wires or trolley tracks, making their routes much more flexible than older forms of electric transportation. Because of their convenience and efficiency, it is not surprising that such charging technologies have surged in popularity. Since 2010, when these were first introduced, more than 10,500 DC fast charging stations have been sold in 73 countries, helping nations move away from vehicles powered by fossil fuels.

If Bangkok can tap into the booming EV infrastructure market and embrace a fast-track transition to electric vehicles, it can successfully address the growing challenge of air pollution. The city has man-aged this challenge in the past, and together, we can do it again for a cleaner future.

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About the author

Chaiyot Piyawannarat

Chaiyot Piyawannarat is the country managing director for ABB in Thailand and leads business operations in Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. He was appointed head of ABB in Thailand in 2007, and has held numerous roles in the country since joining the company back in 1988. Chaiyot started his career at ABB as a sales engineer, performing sales and marketing of electrical equipment to industries, leading a team to meet and surpass sales targets. He then moved on to manage various businesses and divisions, giving him the opportunity to lead segments related to industrial automation, and process industries such as the pulp and paper, metals, as well as oil and gas industries.
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