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Electric car is still on the charger

A sample model of the Angkor EV 2013, Cambodia's answer to the electric car, at the Heng Development showroom in Phnom Penh.
A sample model of the Angkor EV 2013, Cambodia's answer to the electric car, at the Heng Development showroom in Phnom Penh. PHA LINA

Electric car is still on the charger

What happened to Cambodia’s electric car? The short answer is, the wait continues.

More than seven months after its owners unveiled the new and improved Angkor EV 2013 to great fanfare, they are chronically short of funding and assembly is taking place in piecemeal fashion.

Seang Chan Heng, general director of Heng Development, the company producing the Angkor EV model, said yesterday that backing to get the country’s first personal-use electric car out on the road is not what it could be. Chan Heng said the project needs an additional $100 million, and she is on the hunt for business partners.

“We really have the intention to make this happen, and we are considering to take a loan from the bank to operate this project,” Chan Heng said. “It is good to have better support from a governmental body or rich people.”

In March 2011, Chan Heng signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chou Leang Alliance Group and car designer Nhean Phalloek in a $20 million deal that included a manufacturing factory in Kandal province and foresaw a workforce of 300.

While Chan Heng did not comment on the state of the factory, she said that assembly lines have suffered from the lack of ongoing funding.

“It is like semi-technology processing,” she said. “We have not assembled the car by the machine yet because we do not have sufficient capital.”

Chan Heng said only “a few” units have come off the line.

She added that she was preparing a video detailing production challenges facing the factory.

Phalloek, the designer, declined to comment on the car, and referred questions to Heng Development.

In 2010, Phalloek, an inventor with no formal training who’s been tinkering with cars for years, told the Post that the vehicles would cost about $10,000 each.

“We’ll be making many different models, ranging from two seats to 12 seats, to satisfy local consumers and foreign investors,” he said at the time.

In January, Phalloek said the battery-powered Angkor EV 2013 could travel 300 kilometres between charges and reach speeds of up to 60 kilometres an hour.

At the unveiling earlier this year, Chan Heng blamed production delays on a break with a former business partner who dropped out of the deal.

The prototype unveiled in January is still on display at the company’s showroom on Monivong Boulevard.

If it comes out, the Angkor EV 2013 will enter a growing car industry, though it remains to be seen whether an electric vehicle can gain market share in a country where consumers can spend the same amount of money for second-hand cars, which account for the majority of purchases.

Sales of new cars in Cambodia have risen over the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2012, but the figures pale in comparison to the country’s thriving second-hand market.

Kong Nuon, chairman of Toyota Cambodia, the largest car dealer in terms of market share, said last month that Toyota has sold slightly more than 600 units from January through to June, a 50 per cent increase from the same period last year.

Sales are on track to beat the 800 units that rolled out of dealerships in all of 2012.

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