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Indonesia’s EV Ambition May Be Underestimating Some Challenges. Relying On China Won’t Be Enough

Chinese electric vehicle brand Neta displays the electric vehicle "NETA V" during the 30th Gaikindo Indonesia International Auto Show (GIIAS) at the Indonesia Convention Exhibition (ICE) in Tangerang on August 10, 2023. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Indonesia is on a quest to build an end-to-end electric vehicle (EV) industry. The country is rich with nickel, an important raw material for nickel cobalt manganese (NCM)-based EV batteries. It’s a “confident middle-income” country, according to the World Bank, and it’s got a thriving automotive industry that contributes 10% to GDP. All the ingredients for success are there, right? 

On paper, perhaps. Looking closer, making the dream a reality has been difficult and risky, not to mention the marginalizing of local communities in the process. Whoever takes the baton from current Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo must realize a few points: things may not go according to plan, and relying on China’s foreign investment alone is not enough.

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