Is PH ready for electric vehicles?

    The Nissan Leaf is an all electric car that will be launched soon.

    SOME twenty or so years ago, I wrote for an online electric vehicle website based in the US. During that time electric vehicles were considered “self-failing innovations.” Poor battery storage and power, low torque electric motors that took up too much power, and an almost unavailable charging grid were the reasons why the EV did not take off.

    There were two factors that made electric vehicles unpopular then, and these may very well apply to the Philippines now, as we will receive the first electric and hybrid-electric vehicle shipments this year.

    Are Filipinos ready for electric vehicles?

    A Frost & Sullivan market research commissioned by Nissan revealed that 46 percent of Filipinos included in the survey may buy an EV as their next car. The study, which covered EVs in Southeast Asia further said that this number increases to 75 percent if government incentives such as lower or no import duties (which impact the selling price), reduction or removal of vehicle-related taxes, more government charging infrastructure, priority lanes for EVs during car registration, and free parking, are included.

    But companies like GM and Honda as early as the 1990s already had a vision of an electrified world. Nissan was silently watching them as the two companies produced the GM EV1 between 1996 to 2002 and the Honda EV Plus between 1997 to 1999. Both cars were deployed in California to take advantage of California Air Resources Board requirements for zero-emission vehicles.

    Both cars operated on test modes, so that both the government and the manufacturers were urged to learn about advanced battery use in an electric car and to make sure that in the making of electric cars and its batteries no additional pollutants will harm the environment.

    The lessons of the EV1 and EV Plus may resonate as the Philippines will soon receive its first commercially available electric cars designed for public use.

    In relation to this, the Philippines has been using electric vehicles for commercial transportation since 2010 or even earlier.

    The first for-passenger EVs were tricycles sponsored by the Asian Development Bank to replace highly pollutive two-stroke motorcycles. Introduced in a pilot project in Mandaluyong in 2011, these lithium-ion battery powered tricycles still survive today, although less than half are running.

    Now as the global automotive industry is moving away for fossil-fuel powered internal combustion engines to electric mobility, both the government and the private sector are expected to respond quickly, as in now, before the launch of any new electric vehicle.

    Why? Electric cars from Nissan, Hyundai and Mitsubishi are ready for public consumption, but nothing has yet been formalized regarding what kind of incentives and how this be applied to imported EVs.

    For example, Senate Bill No.174, or the Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act, has yet to be voted on and signed into law. It will take another 6 months to a year before a fully working IRR can be implemented.

    Senator Win Gatchalian, the bill’s author, reiterated the importance of a sound policy and regulatory framework to usher in the uptake of EVs in the country. The many initiatives will remain just initiatives if government support and infrastructure do not materialize. Also, more consumers are beginning to see the value of electric vehicles and their positive effects on congestion, and noise and air pollution.

    Vehicle registration used to be an issue, but amended policies at the LTO now allows private use EVs to be registered. Previously electric tricycles or the electric jeepneys of Makati for instance needed to only be registered at local government unit level.

    Now the Land Transportation Office has officially said that electric vehicles can be registered and thus operated legally on Philippine streets. In a report that appeared in the leading automotive website Autoindustriya ( Danilo Encela, head of technical evaluation and planning section of LTO’s operations division, said that registration is covered by the kind of certificates the Bureau of Customs will issue at the time the vehicles are inspected at the ports.

    That brings up another issue. The BOC.

    Prices of electric vehicles imported from Japan, Korea or China will still be imposed a 30 percent import duty because they do not fall into specific classifications of vehicles that receive incentives from AFTA agreements. As of this writing, there is no specific incentive proposed or implemented directly related to electric vehicles.

    The fact is it will not be Nissan or Hyundai or Mitsubishi that would have brought in the first commercially viable electric vehicle to the country. The accolade belongs to Chery, which in 2009 brought in 2 passenger car EVs for display as a market study. BYD brought in the Tang hybrid electric and sold at least two of these cars.

    “The Philippines is slowly learning the benefits of adopting to EVs in order do away with the negative effects that come with vehicles running on fossil fuel,” Edmund Araga, president of the Electric Vehicles Association of the Philippines.

    Nissan, which created and sells the world’s best-selling electric car the Nissan Leaf, is leading the conversation in Asia around electrification. As the Japanese automaker explains how this EV can operate in the country, it also brings other questions.

    The Nissan LEAF can cover 311 kilometers when fully charged. That’s the distance between Manila and San Fernando, La Union. This allows drivers to easily travel to Calamba, Laguna (53 kms), Baguio, Benguet (245 kms), or Baler, Aurora (274 kms) and not have to worry about completely losing battery charge while on the road. For reference, the average driving distance around Metro Manila per day is only 13.2 km.

    When it comes to electric vehicles however, persistence not distance is the key. Being stuck in two to three hours traffic with the air conditioner on is stressful to any EV. Because charging and recharging involves converting kinetic energy to stored electricity, staying still in traffic maybe potentially stressful to the electrical system.

    Nissan says there are three primary ways to charge an EV, according to consumer preference and ease. Charging at home, usually overnight, with a standard universal cable can be done right away and takes 12 to 15 hours to fully charge the Nissan Leaf. A wall box can also be installed at home or in any establishment, and takes between five to seven hours per charge session. And there are currently 23 public charging stations in the Philippines, and more are being added.

    Of these 23 public charging stations, will one or all carry the charging plug specific to the Leaf? No worries according to Nissan. The Nissan Leaf uses two charging standards for its inlets, the low energy Type 2 and rapid charging CHAdeMO type.

    The Type 2 inlet is used when charging at home or at public slow and fast AC points. The CHAdeMO inlet is used to carry high power during rapid DC charging from a CHAdeMO connector.

    Most electric vehicles produce zero direct emissions, which means they are a good environmental choice. Moreover, electric vehicles allow a reduction in noise pollution, a growing issue in urban centers. A Nissan Leaf has a running noise level of 21 decibels, compared to the average 82 decibels that a car produces when driving at 80 km per hour.

    “Nissan is committed in meeting Filipinos’ demand for sustainable, safe, and smart mobility by bringing the Nissan LEAF to the country. We will continue to support EV adoption in the Philippines by educating the public on the advantages and benefits of EVs for consumers and for the environment,” Atsushi Najima, Nissan in the Philippines President and Managing Director

    So, is the Philippines ready to be electrified?

    Not quite yet. But once car companies bring out their EVs, everyone needs to get ready.