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Business

Laos pushing electric bikes, tuk-tuks

Haier Asia President Yoshiaki Ito, standing, with prototype electric bikes in the Laotian capital.

VIENTIANE -- Electric-powered motorbikes and three-wheelers are making gains in Laos as the Southeast Asian nation seeks an economic jolt from vehicles exploiting its abundant sources of electricity, such as hydropower.

     Chinese appliance manufacturer Haier delivered prototype electric motorbikes to the government Tuesday, showing them off at an event here. The company plans to release them by year-end and aims to sell more than 3,000 units next year. It will initially ship the bikes from Japan but is considering eventually building them in Laos.

     The electricity-rich country offers great business opportunities, Haier Asia President Yoshiaki Ito said at the event, where he sat on an electric bike sporting the Haier logo. The company has developed the vehicles with the Laotian Ministry of Science and Technology. Japanese startup G-wheel is providing technological support.

     Charging takes eight hours for a range of 80km. Prices have not yet been set, but Ito said the company hopes to keep them at the same level as gasoline-powered bikes.

     The northern tourist town of Luang Prabang is making a full-throttled push to introduce electric three-wheelers. The town, designated a World Heritage site by the United Nations, is trying to shift from gasoline to electric vehicles. The hope is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to protect the World Heritage site, according to the local transport bureau chief.

     The Japan International Cooperation Agency has helped deliver 14 electric tuk-tuk three-wheelers made by companies including Aichi Prefecture-based Prozza. They will run on fixed routes like buses to capture demand from tourists.

     Electricity costs half as much in Laos as in Thailand -- and around 30% as much as in Japan. Mired in a trade deficit, the country is trying to curb imports of oil and other resources and promote electric vehicles to take advantage of its homegrown energy sources.

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