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Charging into the age of electro-mobility

By Kap Maceda Aguila

THE NINTH edition of the Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit (PEVS) kicks off on Aug. 26. Unbowed by the pandemic, confab organizer Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP) resorts to an online staging anew for a multi-sectoral coming together for the electrification of transportation.

EVAP “envisions a nation wherein the use of electric vehicles is highly promoted, encouraged and supported by its government and the society in order to develop a transportation landscape that is one with the environment ecologically and economically.”

The summit is once again supported by Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and the Department of Energy (DoE) and is themed “Accelerating the Switch to Electro-Mobility in the Philippines.” The overarching vision is the “fast-tracking (of) electric vehicle adoption in the local transport sector in line with the government’s medium-term goal of attaining a low-carbon economy.”

Said EVAP President Edmund Araga, “We need to step up our efforts to achieve our goals for rapid EV deployment, and to do this, government and private sectors need to collectively reaffirm their commitment to do so.”

Last week, organizers held a preliminary press conference to drum up support for — as well provide an outline of what can be expected from — the PEVS. Mr. Araga said that among the expectations is the “reaffirmation of commitment from key representatives of government agencies, from academe, from civil society in pushing transition of a sustainable transport system.”

We wait with bated breath for the much-anticipated and hoped-for approval at the Congressional level of the Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act authored by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian. SB 1382 has already been okayed by the Upper House last May.

Once passed into law, the measure, according to a Senate press release, “will lessen the transport sector’s dependence on imported crude supply, a sustainability solution that will also be beneficial to the environment as it will have zero gas emission.”

Not only that, it espouses EVs while giving impetus to our “manufacturing sector because what is incorporated in the bill is not only the promotion of the use of EVs but also the development of the EV industry, not just the vehicle itself but the whole ecosystem as it includes the charging stations, batteries, other parts and components.”

Aside from the lessening (direct) dependence on fossil fuels, the wider adoption of EVs also spells relief for our embattled lungs. Meralco Vice-President and Chief Sustainability Officer Raymond Ravelo said that this is doubly appropriate as respiratory health has become a key focus area in this age of the pandemic. He additionally stressed the importance of the PEVS as a “platform for knowledge sharing, policy dialogue, and platform for identifying synergies… This is a team game; we cannot go at it alone. We need earnest effort and collective action.”

Nissan Philippines, one of the event sponsors and participants, recently introduced in a big way the global EV model Leaf. “It’s a very big milestone,” underscored Nissan Philippines Assistant General Manager and Head of Communications Dax Avenido. “And this is the first EV Summit since (making the Leaf available).” Embodied in the model are Nissan’s sustainability aspirations.

“It ties in with our campaign for zero emissions, and the Leaf as a partner in sustainability,” Mr. Avenido added.

For his part, Department of Energy-Energy Utilization Management Bureau Director Patrick Aquino said, “We’ve always said that the future is electric, and we will be supporting electric vehicle charging stations — and the infrastructure bill.” What seems to be the tipping point that will enable a quicker, more widespread transition into electric (or at least electrified) vehicles appears to be the knocking down of barriers of cost.

Fiscal relief and other incentives will effectively turbocharge the industry until the traditionally higher cost admission for EVs gets to the level of regular internal combustion engine-powered automobiles. “The bill will also ensure an expedited registration procedure for EV users,” said Sen. Gatchalian in a release. Parity can also happen more quickly as the price of EV batteries plummet with time and more polished manufacturing practices.

To be fair, OEMs have been separately moving on their own in varying speeds toward electrifying their vehicle portfolios — largely as a function of the intent of their global headquarters. Brands such as Volvo, Porsche, Jaguar, BYD, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, and more have made electrified vehicles aspirational parts of their portfolio. And when we say aspirational, we do not mean in a price-prohibitive sense. But EVAP has been doing sterling groundwork on multiple fronts by engaging all relevant stakeholders — including local and national government, and legislature — to keep electrification top of mind and never out of sight. The PEVS is certainly a critical ingredient to its success thus far.

Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) introduced the now-iconic Prius hybrid more than a decade ago, but the acquisition cost — sans relief from government — didn’t make it a blockbuster hit. Certainly, Filipinos weren’t too keen then about electrification, either.

That is certainly not the case now as Toyota is offering better-priced hybrid options that allow thoroughly guilt-free mobility at more reasonable prices. Still, kudos to TMP for daring to pioneer despite the hurdles of being the first mover. But I digress. Perhaps you can see TMP reaping the fruits of its EV labor/information drive in the success of its luxury brand Lexus in selling hybrids.

Just to give you an idea from recent numbers, out of 269 units sold from January to June this year, Lexus Philippines (through Lexus Manila) delivered 43 hybrid units to customers. “That’s around 16%. But in the case of the IS, hybrid versus regular gasoline models the proportion can vary from 30% to 50%,” shared Lexus Manila President Raymond Rodriguez with “Velocity.”

Mr. Araga said to this writer, “We’re waiting for the approval of the bill. If you give companies the right incentives, we can expect more (electrified) models.”

For Mr. Ravelo, it’s not a matter of if but when. “Electric vehicles are inevitable,” he declared.

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