From Bangkok to Singapore and back… without a drop of fuel

Two Thai content creators endure a different kind of long-distance relationship in an electric car

For 10 long days and over 4,143 km, content creators Aticharn Cherngchavano and Sueching Chin tested not just their pure electric BMW iX3, but also their marriage.

Between Jul 8 and 17, the couple drove their battery-powered BMW from Bangkok to Singapore and back, hoping they were the first to complete the journey in an electric vehicle (EV). They filmed the experience for their YouTube channel, Spin9, which covers gadgets, cars and air travel, and has more than 666,000 subscribers.

Those subscribers will soon get to watch how the husband-and-wife team came to grips with the 3 countries' various charging networks, navigated reams of mind-boggling paperwork, and spent all that time together in the close confines of a car without once wanting to strangle one another.

"You really have to love each other so much in order to pull off something like this," Sueching told The Business Times (BT) on the night of Jul 15, their final day in Singapore.

Then again, Aticharn and Sueching aren't long-distance rookies in EVs. They filmed themselves testing the Mercedes EQS's claimed range of 770 km by attempting to drive it from Bangkok to Chiangmai without stopping to charge it (the resulting hour-long video has 1.4 million views and counting).

They also took a Porsche Taycan to Sueching's hometown, which is where the idea for the Bangkok-Singapore run took hold. "After we drove an EV from Bangkok to Hat Yai I said, 'Well, once the border reopens we can drive into Malaysia'," she told BT. "In my head I thought that would be difficult, even impossible. We joked about it, and he said, 'Then, why don't we drive all the way to Singapore?' I took it as a joke and said, 'That's funny! Ha ha ha…'"

But Aticharn wasn't laughing. Instead, he buried himself in research and planning, relishing the challenge. He said people with EVs generally know how to do long drives in Thailand by looking for direct current (DC) chargers, which are faster. They then have to budget time to stop and charge. "But to cross borders, that's another story," he said.

Sure enough, the pair quickly found that charging a foreign EV in Malaysia can be a pain. Charging stations from ChargEV, the country's biggest network, showed up on maps online, but they were off limits to the Spin9 couple.

"You need to register, but with a local phone. Then you need an annual subscription, and the chargers only work with a physical membership card," Aticharn said. "We struggled in Malaysia, because most chargers that we planned for, we could not use."

In contrast, they found Singapore a breeze. "It's better than I thought. DC chargers are all around," he said. "They're everywhere."

"You don't have that range anxiety. If I were living in Singapore and driving an EV, I would feel pretty relaxed knowing that there are so many charging stations," Sueching added.

Both named crossing the border into Singapore as the highlight of their trip. "That's a moment we could never describe," Aticharn said. That elation was part relief; along the way, a Tesla driver contacted the Spin9 team on Facebook to say he was doing the same trip in the opposite direction.

Aticharn and Sueching fretted that they would no longer be the first people (or at least the first known people) to drive between the 2 cities without petrol, but the Tesla driver apparently rolled into Bangkok on Jul 14 - just 2 days after Spin9's BMW made it here.

After making a 2-day dash home, Aticharn tallied up some stats for EV nerds (a label he would probably apply to himself): over the entire journey the BMW consumed 847 kilowatt-hours of juice and stopped 15 times for DC charging.

Apart from proving that EVs can do cross-border trips with some planning, the couple had a few personal insights to share. "One of the things we need to remind ourselves is that anything can go wrong with trips like this," Sueching said. "And this is what we signed up for, so if things go wrong we are not going to blame each other."

"A car is a very small space, like a very small room where people sit close next to each other. I think it's a test," Aticharn added. "But it's also romantic."

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