An idea to electrify 1 million boats in Southeast Asia—inspired by Ikea

(Eco Business, 26 Aug 2019) A Singapore-based renewables startup is on a mission to replace polluting diesel-powered boats with solar-charged electric vessels in Southeast Asia, inspired by a Swedish furniture retailer’s disruptive approach to part distribution and assembly.

All around Southeast Asia, experiments in the electrification of transport are underway. Buses in Thailand, cars in Malaysia, scooters in Myanmar, bicycles in Singapore, and jeepneys in the Philippines. But, as sea levels rise around the climate-vulnerable sub-region, what about transport of the seafaring variety?

Hans van Mameren, a septuagenarian Dutchman who runs Singapore-based renewable energy consultancy Energy Renewed, has an ambitious plan to electrify one million diesel boats in Southeast Asia.

The aim? To build a sustainable business ecosystem around e-boats, and in so doing reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuels, curb pollution, and improve the health and livelihoods of local communities in one of the regions at greatest risk from climate change.

Van Mameren and his team were inspired by the Ikea model of homeware distribution and assembly when they came up the plan. His company will supply the parts for the boats and instructions for how to assemble the kit, but ultimately, the vessels will be put together by local boat builders who can sell off the completed boats and turn a profit.

“The whole world is in hot pursuit of electric cars, buses and scooters. But they forgot about boats. There are literally millions of boats in Southeast Asia. If you let this market get away, you’re making a big mistake,” said Van Mameren, who spent 50 years in the shipping business before launching his clean energy venture in 2017.

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Eco Business, 26 Aug 2019: An idea to electrify 1 million boats in Southeast Asia—inspired by Ikea