Japanese startup plans Sri Lanka’s first Electric Vehicle plant

Opening a new chapter in Sri Lankan automotive industry, a Tokyo based high-tech research and development startup is planning Sri Lanka’s first ever large, industry scale Electric Vehicle (EV) manufacturing facility. The startup from Tokyo is also setting up international standard EV charging systems known as “micro-grid” stations across the country, as part of their hi-tech transfer to Sri Lanka.  A top Japanese investment team consisting of key executives of Tokyo’s Future Science Research Inc (FSRI), along with high ranking former Japanese officials is now in town for the project’s initial groundwork. The proposed EV manufacturing operation is to take off by producing Sri Lanka’s first ever smart, “EV tuk-tuks.”

“We are not coming to Sri Lanka because of the availability of resources -such as cheap labour. If that is the case we can go to some other destination where the resources are available even cheaper" stressed the Chairman of Tokyo based Future Science Research Inc (FSRI) Mr Akihito Matsumura on 1 May in Colombo. FSRI's Matsumura , who is leading a delegation consisting executives of his company and several former Japanese technocrats, was addressing the Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bthiudeen on 1 May when he met Minister Bathiudeen in Colombo.

FSRI's Matsumura stressed their long term operational interests in Sri Lanka. "We are not coming here to make inexpensive products either -but we are entering due to our long term vision, well established history of Sri Lanka-Japan cooperation, and the need for us to have a good base from where we can win in the competitive automotive world” Matsumura said and added: “We are not looking for conventional production or assembly either-we want to go with cutting edge tech. We look to team up with many Lankan firms in joint ventures. As a start we are looking to launch the local EV industry by introducing new innovations to Sri Lankan vehicle market. Our entire (proposed) output is for the Sri Lankan market and we can consider exports after meeting local market requirements. One of the major advantages for Sri Lanka by enlisting our company is that unlike large global vehicle manufacturing corporations, we are quick to respond to the market."  FSRI's Matsumura added that his team's arrival in Colombo is also due to the favorable impressions he received about Sri Lanka from HE President Maithripala  Sirisena's recent visit to Japan.  "Back in Japan, we use world's latest technology to create EV batteries for small class EVs. For example, we supply to Thailand's FOMM electric car which is considered as Japan’s first EV project outside of Japan. The Thai made FOMM is the world's smallest electric four seater car, and its innovation level is at such high levels that the car even floats in flood-waters and will not sink. That’s the level of our company’s new tech. Then what is our innovative project we plan to set up in Sri Lanka? We propose to start Sri Lanka’s first ever eco-green EV three-wheeler and motor-bike production facility–and that will also be our first ever venture producing a full EVs by ourselves anywhere in the world outside of Japan. In addition we also like to set up a cutting edge research and development (R&D) unit here. This R&D can work on setting up electricity micro-grids in the country to power EVs and other location based electricity requirements, away from the load of the main grid. More importantly our roposed eco-green EV manufacturing facility will enhance Sri Lanka’s automotive industry profile" Matsumura added.

Minister Bathiudeen, responding to FSRI's Matsumura 

welcomed their plans to launch this new project in Sri Lanka. “This new venture is innovative and Sri Lanka is in fact honored to have it here. It will be a great step forward for Sri Lanka’s automotive sector and will involve both the BoI and my Ministry. I and my officials will extend our fullest cooperation to get this off the ground. Already 85 Japanese FDI projects are here employing 10000 Sri Lankans. We can speak to local Chambers to link local JV partners for your new project. Once you start making them, you can begin exporting additional production to the Indian and Pakistani markets using our FTAs. Since our HE President Sirisena too is supporting environment preservation, your pro-green technology will be valuable for our sustainable industrial development plans.”

Chairman Matsumura and his team did not reveal any details of their planned investment values in the proposed EV initiative. In the 10 year period of 2007-2017, Sri Lanka received JapaneseFDI INVESTMENTS totalling $ 273 Mn. There are 85 Japanese private sector projects in operation in Sri Lanka at present. Among the sectors of Japanese investments here are semiconductors, printed circuit boards, safety sensors, ceramic items, cement, apparel, building and repairing of ships, power and tourism, infrastructure, and logistics.

Matsumura’s FSRI, born as an environmental energy business startup, based in Tokyo and is involved in the introduction of various pro-green hi-tech innovations such as high performance nano-tech, molten metal forging, and high dimensional separation. Also in their spectrum is smart EV battery design-batteries that, over the internet, can communicate latest power reserve levels to micro-grids and can automatically direct the EV vehicle to the nearest grid-stationfor re-charging