“The Bright Spark of Thailand”
Somphote Ahunai says entering into a business that no one has yet entered using nothing but new technology, new innovations and the intelligence of people takes courage and imagination. And he’s the man who has taken that step.
He hasn’t been called the “Thai Electricity Tycoon” and his company the producer of the “Tesla of Southeast Asia” for nothing. The fact is − Somphote Ahunai, the Founder and CEO of Energy Absolute (EA) is all of that and more.
While it is true that it is his commercial electric vehicles (EV) such as cars (Mine Mobility), buses (Mine Bus) and boats (MINE Smart Ferry) that are generating most of Asia’s interest and excitement, EA’s business encompasses harnessing many other forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind as can be seen in his solar and wind plants currently in commercial use in over a dozen provinces, as well as biodiesel production and distribution, lithium-ion battery development and production, and EA Anywhere electric charging stations to provide plug-in charging service for the EVs.
Good for the Country and the World
“My business is a pioneer in Thailand,” says Somphote Ahunai matter-of-factly. “It deals in renewable energy producing clean energy to reduce global warming.”
He says the biodiesel business can help farmers − and indeed it can, because biodiesel B100 which is a cleaner-burning fuel substitute for petroleum diesel, is made from vegetable oils and animal fats such as crude palm oil which is beneficial for farming as clean soil, water and air are critical for growing crops – and, “the Lithium-ion batteries are also key to the success of the electric vehicle industry which can grow and build Thailand into ASEAN’s EV hub.”
EA is helping his people too. “My business has helped develop skills and create value for Thai people because there is no company in Thailand or Thai person who has gone into innovation this seriously.”
About Energy Absolute
It is true that Energy Absolute is all about innovation and “Green Products”, as he describes them. Established in 2006 and publicly listed by 2013, it runs five businesses. Each business is in turn, run by its own set of subsidiaries.
The five businesses are:
1: The Biodiesel Business which uses crude palm oil as its main ingredient to produce Biodiesel B100 and its by-product glycerine, Green Diesel and PCM (Phase Change Material) and all their by-products such as Crude Glycerine and Free Fatty Acid. All of these biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% while their by-products like purified glycerine are sold for other uses such as cosmetics, medicine, soap, toothpaste and so on. Glycerine has traditionally been used in all these products.
2: The Power Business which runs solar power plants and wind power plants for conversion into electricity which is then sold to the electricity generation authority in Thailand. These power plants, which run across acres of land, are currently in commercial operation in many provinces in Thailand. The first one began operations as early as 2012.
3: The Energy Storage System Business which develops, manages and distributes lithium-ion batteries for his fleet of EVs and for Energy Storage Systems used in other applications. A US$3 billion battery gigafactory − the first in ASEAN − was opened in 2021 to manufacture these storage devices.
4: The Electric Vehicle Business which designs and manufactures all the electric vehicles including passenger and specialised industrial cars, buses, trucks and mini trucks and ferries and boats.
The Mine Smart Ferry began operations on the Chao Phraya River running through Bangkok and Nonthaburi in 2021. Offering three service lines along its route, the ferry runs on an 800kWh lithium-ion battery which can be charged in 15 minutes and emits no noise, water or air pollution.
Similar to the ferries, a fleet of Mine Buses were launched in 2021. Called the Thai Smile Bus, these will replace and phase out all the old diesel buses that emit smog by 2025. As of October 2023, EA’s fleet of 1,250 E-buses cover a total of 71 routes in Metropolitan Bangkok.
5: The Charging Station Business which builds charging stations under the brand name ‘EA Anywhere’ provides charging services for all electric cars. In April 2022, there were already 430 EA Anywhere charging stations in operation.
Making Many Firsts
Apart from using up-to-date technology, EA has also accomplished many innovations that are first in the world. An example would be its lithium-ion batteries which can be charged to contain a high volume of energy so that they can last a long time without the need for a recharge.
“Megawatt charging applies to the E-Ferry and the Ultra-Fast Charge are batteries that can be fully charged within 15 to 20 minutes,” he explains, adding that these batteries create an EV Ecosystem where all the stages of the EV lifecycle from electricity generation and battery production to vehicle manufacturing and charging-point installation are all integrated, and EA is the one-stop shop that supplies them all.
EA is not just building an EV empire, it is also helping Thailand achieve zero carbon emission while catapulting it into a top-tier nation for renewable energy products.
“I see this as an achievement that EA has made,” he declares.
In truth, it is he who is behind his company’s achievements and his predilection for deep thinking may be the reason why he was able to come up with such a clever business model.
“I have deep analytical thinking skills,” he assesses, attributing the skill partly to his education.
Holding two Honorary Doctorates in Electrical Engineering with one in renewable energy and environment, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, he says his deep-thinking abilities may be due to his knowledge in both Engineering and Business Management.
“I use my engineering skills as logic to overcome the complex problems of business.”
True Son of Thailand
A patriot at heart, Somphote says, “As a pioneer in the renewable energy industry in Thailand, EA finds great pleasure in doing this business as it can help develop the country.”
Moreover, being established for only 15 years, EA has taken a very short time to make such a great stride. “I believe the story of EA will make Thailand proud,” he says.