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Little spark for electric motos

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Battery-powered scooters are capturing an increasing share of the Asia Pacific’s two-wheeled transport market, according to a recent study, but scooter retailers in Phnom Penh yesterday said Cambodians still opt for the petrol-burning version.

By 2018, about 65.5 million electric scooters worth some US$382 million will be sold in the region, Pike Research, a green technologies market research firm, said in a recent report.

“Growing economic prosperity is creating a greater number of middle- and high-income level consumers, which in turn is contributing to the growth of the electric two-wheel vehicle market in the region,” Andy Bae, a senior analyst at Pike Research, said in the report.

Cambodia’s role in the trend is unclear, and people in the industry said sales for electronic bikes were low.

Chhai, a mechanic working at one of Phnom Penh’s electric scooter shops, reported that his company has sold two-wheeled vehicles for close to 15 years.

The best sales years were 2008 and 2009, he said.

“In 2008 and 2009, we were selling somewhere between 30 and 50 electric bikes and a similar number of electric scooters each year, but now we only manage to sell 10 to 15 of each a year,” Chhai said, declining to give his full name.

The reason for the drop in popularity, Chhai said, may have been because of the lack of spare parts in circulation.

The shop now has a full stock of spare parts available, and Chhai said he’s confident that the popularity of electric vehicles will increase over time.

“The technology is improving, the batteries are breaking less, lasting longer and storing more electricity with each year. I think that in the future there will be many more electric bikes in the Kingdom because of improving technology,” he said.

Locating an electric scooter shop in the country’s capital can be difficult, Sopeak, at Sam Bath Motocycle, said.

“We don’t sell them because they are difficult to sell. They are much too expensive.”

Hok Y of Japan Motorcycles said they don’t sell them because their target market is high-performance motorbikes and the shop feels that the performance of the electronic version is too low.

Some drivers asked about the prospect of the scooters yesterday said the bikes were “silly”.

Many of the electric vehicles on sale are imported from China, and a brand-new electric scooter costs about $400. They can travel anywhere between 30 and 100 kilometres when fully charged. Depending on the model, the bikes take two to eight hours to reach full power capacity.

To contact the reporter on this story: Abe Becker at newsroom@phnompenhpost.com

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