In brief

Following years of market domination by the conventional automobile industry, EV technology is now emerging as an environment-friendlier alternative, opening up various new opportunities for businesses as well as consumers all around the world. EV development permeates the whole chain of the present automotive industry, from the manufacturing and distribution sectors to subscription and ride-sharing or ride-hailing businesses. To operate an EV business in Thailand, there are certain legal concerns you need to take into account as follows.

From manufacture to distribution

For a manufacturer of EVs, first and foremost, one needs to consider the requirement on fittings and equipment, such as car body, transmission system and steering system, under the law on motor vehicles. If EVs are to be used in transport businesses, additional specific requirements will also need to be taken into account. In addition, as the main source of energy for an EV is electricity stored in batteries, such batteries also have to meet the minimum standards as specified under the relevant law.

It is important to note that utmost care should be given to the whole process of manufacturing. EV manufacturers should make sure that the manufactured EVs will not cause any harm to the consumers due to any flaws in the designing or manufacturing processes. If this happens, it will inevitably be their responsibility to bear all related damages under the law on product liability.

Telematics requirements

Motor vehicles these days, including EVs, usually come with built-in telematics systems, which provide drivers with various useful functions, such as GPS tracking service, emergency assistance and vehicle diagnostics, and location of EV charging stations. There are certain requirements under the telecommunications law which operators of these technologies may need to fulfill, including the requirement to apply for a telecommunication business license for GPS tracking service and that on relevant technical standards and telecommunications equipment licenses applicable to the telematics device.

Protecting your innovation and brand

Developing EV technology in a highly competitive market could result in new ideas and innovation. While some of them would be automatically protected under the law, for instance, the source codes written for use in a driver-assistance system could be automatically protected under the copyright law, the rest may require prerequisite steps in order to obtain legal protection. For example, if during the development a novel innovation or process is invented that should be protected from exploitation by others, especially competitors, one may need to apply for a patent with the competent authority to secure for themselves exclusivity to exploit such innovation or process.

Moreover, to make EV products distinct from those of others in the market, businesses may need to put effort into building their brands and related goodwill. These brands and goodwill could assume protection under the trademark law, provided that they are registered with the competent authority as well.

Subscription, ride-sharing and ride-hailing business

A subscription business model, in which consumers subscribe for particular products, including EVs, instead of purchasing them, is becoming more and more popular. Moreover, the purchased vehicles, including EVs, can also be used to provide services to others to generate more income, such as ride-sharing and ride-hailing services. These services are typically provided via online channels like websites and mobile applications. Thus, direct marketing business registrations and e-commerce registrations may need to be obtained before conducting the businesses.

Particularly for ride-hailing service, the EVs used to provide such service must also be registered specifically for such purpose under the law on motor vehicles.

Data protection

It is undeniable that current EV-related businesses, especially those conducted online, are largely propelled by the massive amount of data, including personal data of their customers. It should be noted that personal data is protected under the personal data protection law, which prescribes a set of requirements for business operators who are usually regarded as the data controllers to comply with. These requirements include, among others, privacy notices to their customers, having written agreements with the service providers processing personal data on their behalf, and having in place appropriate security measures.

In sum, conducting EV businesses may involve a number of legal considerations from the requirement to apply for a license or registration to the need to prepare necessary legal documents and apply them. A thorough legal review should be conducted before starting any new business model to determine what needs to be done in order to ensure the business's compliance with the applicable laws.