‘One million electric vehicles in PH by 2020’

The cost of charging the battery of a e-trike, for example, is about 5 times less than what drivers spend on fuel for regular tricycles

THE NEW JEEP. E-jeepneys can be just as colorful and playful as conventional jeepneys. All photos by Pia Ranada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Is this being too optimistic for a developing country that has learned to make do with the cheap and the old?

Electric vehicle manufacturers, both local and foreign, beg to differ. 

In the 3rd Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit held in Pasig City on Thursday, February 27, more than 500 participants from all over the world gathered to celebrate the achievements of the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The event gathered major industry players, manufacturers, NGOs, the academe, and government officials. 

“The Philippines is at the center right now. We can be the hub for electric vehicle production in the region,” said Rommel Juan, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP).

To prove his point, he announced the ambitious industry target of putting one million electric vehicles on Philippine roads by 2020. 

“It’s not impossible because this includes two-wheelers like electric bikes, electric motorcycles, 3-wheelers like electric tricycles, and the e-jeepneys,” Juan said.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Department of Energy (DOE) are about to finalize a project to replace 200,000 conventional tricycles with electric versions. The 5-year project will see to it that 100,000 electric tricycles or e-trikes will be used all over the country by the end of 2017.

The DOE is set to announce the winner of the public bidding for the supplier of the first 3,000 e-trikes in the next few weeks.

“The e-tricycles will be distributed all over the country starting with 500 in Mandaluyong City, 500 in Manila, 500 in Tarlac, and others,” said ADB principal energy specialist Sohail Hasnie. 

The DOE will coordinate with local government units, local industry players, and associations of tricycle operators and drivers to make this happen.

E-future? 

The e-vehicle industry is poised to take flight in the Philippines for several reasons, said Juan. 

The biggest driver is the amount of fuel costs saved by using an e-vehicle. A motorist saves up to 80% of the money they would normally use to gas up their car.

An ADB study shows that regular trike drivers spend P250 ($ 5.6) a day on fuel. An e-trike would bring that down to P50 ($1.1), the cost of charging the battery for around two hours that would allow the trike to travel 40 kilometers.

HI-TECH TRIKE. The Bemac e-tricycle from Beet Philippines has regenerative breaks that convert kinetic energy to electric energy, adding energy to its battery every time the driver brakes

The fuel savings are a consolation for the still high prices of e-vehicles – typically double the price of conventional vehicles. A normal tricycle costs around P100,000 ($2,200) while an e-trike costs between P250,000 to P300,000 ($5,600-6,700).

But even these prices are going down because the cost of manufacturing batteries – the most expensive and important part – is also slowly but steadily dropping. In 2012, the price of a lithium-ion battery was around $650. Today it’s at $500.

Another factor that could help lower prices is to set up the stage for e-vehicle manufacturing to be done locally instead of importing from abroad. Some players have already started.

E-jeep maker PhUV designs, fabricates, and assembles their vehicles in the Philippines. COMET e-shuttles – the first fleet operational in Metro Manila in April – will be assembled in Cavite.

That e-vehicles emit no harmful chemicals has earned the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Around 80% of air pollution in Metro Manila comes from motor vehicles.  (READ: Outdoor air pollution a leading cause of cancer – WHO)

“That’s why the level of air pollution in the megacity, 114 total suspended particulates (TSP), is above the safe standard of 90 TSP,” said DENR Environment Management Bureau NCR regional director Vizminda Osorio.

Added to these benefits is the measure from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) imposing a 15-year age limit on jeepneys and buses.

Now the operators are seeking electric jeepneys to replace their regular jeepneys,” said Juan.

In fact, many of the e-jeeps showcased at the summit were based on requests for jeepney operators themselves.

Juan’s PhUV made sure to accommodate requests for a good sound system, more dome lights to prevent hold-ups, a side entrance so passengers are safer entering and exiting the jeep and even a Filipino-speaking voice-over to announce the jeepney stop.

The ADB-DOE e-tricycle project will also make adoption of the technology easier for tricycle drivers. To make the shift, drivers will not have to pay any cash upfront. They pay a monthly amortization using the amount of money they save from not having to gas up. 

“In 5 years, they would have already paid in full,” projected Hasnie.

Government support needed

JUMP ON. Even mainstream car-makers like Mitsubishi are making electric vehicles like this electric version of their Outlander model

But catapulting the EV industry in the Philippines won’t happen without government support. 

The Alternative Fuel Vehicles Incentive Act was well on its way to becoming a law in the 15th Congress. Senate and Congress had passed their respective versions of the bill. But before a bicameral conference committee could convene to reconcile the two versions, the 2013 national elections kicked in, nullifying the bills for the 16th Congress.

Some solons are trying to revive the bill. One of them, Senator Benigno Aquino IV, said: “If you look at the overall goals in terms of the health side, the environmental side, I think it makes sense for the government to support the use of electric vehicles. And it’s not just a trend. It’s happening already all over the world. You have a lot of countries that do provide incentives for electric vehicles.”

The bill aims to provide incentives for e-vehicle manufacturers to invest in the country and for Filipino motorists to buy e-vehicles. It includes fiscal incentives, like eliminating value-added tax and excise tax for a certain period of time.

Motorists who drive e-vehicles will also be given preference in terms of registration, color coding and even parking in certain establishments, said Aquino. 

With the technology improving and burgeoning government support, there’s no reason why the Philippines can’t have one million e-vehicles in 6 years.

According to Juan, “The market is here now. This year will be a tipping point. Finally, we are ready.” – Rappler.com 

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