The market for electric vehicles in ASEAN is currently not very big, but carmakers have started to plan for the future. Nissan, a mass market EV pioneer with the Leaf, has shortlisted Thailand to host its Asia Pacific EV manufacturing facility, the Bangkok Post reports.

Yutaka Sanada, Nissan’s senior VP for Asia and Oceania, told the daily that Thailand is one of the key candidates to house Nissan’s EV facility because the carmaker has already invested heavily in factories in Samut Prakan, which now have a production capacity of 370,000 vehicles per annum.

Nissan also has an R&D unit and proving ground adjacent to the factories. Called Nissan Technical Center South East Asia, it’s the third of its kind outside of Japan and the only one in ASEAN.

“I think all the promotional schemes and the Thailand 4.0 policy are set to drive future EV manufacturing in Thailand. Nissan is conducting a feasibility study for its eco-friendly models in the ASEAN market. Once we see any acceleration of EVs in Thailand or around the region, Nissan can localise production very quickly, so we are seriously considering applying for investment incentives,” Sanada said, while pointing out our region’s AFTA free trade zone benefits.

The exec said that Nissan has plans to introduce the Leaf EV and e-Power hybrids in our region while the above-mentioned feasibility study is conducted.

“We have seen that overall, EVs are not conspicuous in the ASEAN region, but we strongly believe that EV popularity is going to accelerate once customers learn about their efficiency. In this region, e-Power technology can appeal to customers because it is more affordable than the Leaf,” Sanada said, adding that Nissan plans to introduce e-Power models in Thailand and Indonesia as soon as possible.

The most likely e-Power candidate is the Nissan Note e-Power, which went on sale in Japan in late 2016. The e-Power system is rather unique. It’s a non-plug-in range extender hybrid with a 1.2 litre three-cylinder engine that’s not connected to the driven wheels. The engine is only there to feed the electric motor. The Note is currently sold in Thailand, but as a regular 1.2L eco car without the e-Power system.

The latest Nissan Serena also has an e-Power variant, unveiled in October 2017 and set to go on sale in Japan this year. The fifth-generation MPV has been spotted testing in Malaysia lately, although we will probably get the carryover S-Hybrid powertrain instead of the e-Power.

Meanwhile, the all-new Nissan Leaf made its debut in September last year, and Edaran Tan Chong Motor has already confirmed that the second-generation EV will be brought in this year.

The new Leaf receives significant gains in performance and range, with the electric motor now producing 38% more power and 26% more torque, at 110 kW (148 hp) and 320 Nm respectively. Juicing it is a higher-capacity 40 kWh lithium-ion battery that increases its range on the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) from 195 km on the original (later models could go up to 250 km) to 378 km.

Also new is ProPILOT semi-autonomous driving with adaptive cruise control and lane keeping, plus autonomous ProPILOT Park. There’s also an e-Pedal feature that allows you to speed up and slow down (even to a stop) solely by moderating the accelerator pedal.