Indonesia’s SOE Minister Behind the Wheel in Race for Homegrown Electric Car

By webadmin on 09:19 pm May 22, 2012
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Surabaya. State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan said on Sunday that he would be among the first people to take prototypes of four Indonesian-built electric cars out for a spin later this year.

“In two months [the prototypes] will be completed and I will use them on a regular basis,” he said. “So I am now waiting anxiously.”

Each of the cars is being worked on by a different team, one of which is headed by Danet Suryatama, an engineer who Dahlan said had 10 years of experience with US automaker Chrysler.

Dahlan said he would choose the best of the four prototypes, all of which are scheduled to be completed this July, before considering whether they could be mass produced.

“We will evaluate them and discuss them together, including the possibility of producing them nationally. I will try using them first and then the discussion can start,” said Dahlan, who headed the state electricity company, PLN, before becoming the SOE minister last year.

There has been a major push toward producing an Indonesian car since early this year, when Solo Mayor Joko Widodo announced plans to use the Esemka, an SUV assembled by vocational school students in the Central Java town.

However, the Esemka failed a roadworthiness test in March, forcing Joko to scrap his plans for using it as his official car.

Dahlan said state-owned enterprises must start thinking of producing cars running on alternative energy sources. “I want SOEs to produce electric cars because there must be an effort to reduce the use of fossil fuels,” he said.

Last month, the Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS) in Surabaya staged a meeting with representatives from four of the country’s leading engineering schools to hash out a roadmap to determine policies regarding production and infrastructure for electric cars.

Muhammad Nur Yuniarto, head of the industrial automations system laboratory at ITS, said the four universities involved in the project — ITS, the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Gadjah Mada University (UGM) and the University of Indonesia ­— were engaged in their own research and development projects in the field.

ITS is building its own electric car, dubbed Putra Petir, or Son of Lightning.

Experts argue that the main drawback of electric cars, including those produced by more established companies oversees like Tesla, is that it takes hours to recharge them, compared to gasoline-powered cars that only take a few minutes to refuel.

There are also concerns about the limited range between recharging, the high cost and the need to build recharging stations.