Leading the charge to an Electric future

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Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila

ELECTRIC vehicles (EVs) have long crossed the divide of the conceptual to mass-production reality, but there remains a number of challenges to their adoption — from high cost to lack of charging stations. It thus has been a constant and loud refrain in markets like ours that a multi-sectoral push is needed to realize a more conducive environment for EVs.

Appropriately focused on the fostering of partnerships “to electrify public and private transport,” the 6th Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit was held recently in Pasay City. In a statement, Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP) President and spokesperson Rommel T. Juan said the two-day event is “all about building partnerships, aligning objectives, and taking collective action to facilitate further adoption of electric vehicles in the country.”

A presentation by Paulo Jose Mutuc, Frost & Sullivan mobility practice senior consultant for Asia Pacific, showed global resurgence of electric vehicles has been helped along by declining cost of EV batteries, which have slid below the $200 mark. Last year, global electric car sales surpassed one million units for the first time — reaching 1.2 million “with battery electric vehicles making up the majority of sales.” EVAP projects this number to rise to 1.6 million units by the end of 2018, with public charging stations estimated to reach 100,000.

Here in the country, some 1,400 e-jeepneys and e-trikes ply the roads in 19 locations, according to the Department of Trade and Industry’s Board of Investments. Not surprisingly, the “known” charging stations are also in these locations. EVAP envisions to have 200 of these in place by 2022.

Mr. Mutuc benchmarked five countries — Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India, and Japan — with a more mature EV scene than our own. These are “developing domestic EV markets but interestingly enough are already looking into exports… [whether of vehicles or technology].”




OF RANGE ANXIETY AND OPPORTUNITIES
Regarding EV policy, end users ultimately help shape the discussion. “It’s pretty clear that range is the most well-regulated area — not surprising, as revealed by research and anecdotal evidence, because it’s what potential buyers primarily think about,” added the speaker. Meanwhile, battery attributes are displaying “so many standards at the moment, and we’re far from having harmonious standards across the board,” something “tricky” because of the variety of EVs countries and manufacturers want to roll out.

Consequently, even charging stations are far from hewing to a single design or norm, as “countries are more concerned about putting out the actual [facilities] than standardizing them.” This is also reflective of a relatively early stages of the industry early phases of the industry in this region.

With this in mind, Mr. Mutuc averred that the further development of the EV industry in whichever territory will be helped along by financial incentives — “increasingly becoming the preferred means of allowing more electric vehicles to be on the road in various countries.”

Frost & Sullivan forecasts global EV sales of 23 million by 2025; its present 2% share of the passenger vehicle market will reach 22%. This is expected to happen in concert with the mitigation of so-called “range anxiety.” Today’s batteries are now surpassing an output of 60 kilowatt-hours, allowing users to drive more than 300 kilometers with each charge. As earlier mentioned, EV batteries will continue to get cheaper — costing as little as $100 by 2020.

Domestically, Frost & Sullivan has tracked 16 pending legislative bills pertaining to hybrid and electric vehicles. Four important ones are keying in on non-fiscal incentives such as priority in registration and issuance of plate numbers, exemption from the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, and free parking.

“It’s not just finding out where the Philippines is in terms of the actual deployment of vehicles and infrastructure but also thinking about… how the industry can move forward,” maintained Mr. Mutuc.

NISSAN WELCOMES DISRUPTION
“There are lots of things happening in the world which are disrupting… the mobility market, the vehicle market, and the energy market — and [adding] pressure on governments and people,” began Nic Thomas, Nissan Motor Corp. director of electric vehicle unit.

During his presentation, the executive revealed an expected intersect by the middle of the next decade of the rising cost of developing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles [which have to keep up with progressively stricter emissions regulations] with the lower prices of battery electric vehicles. “The tipping point is coming very soon,” he said, producing “massive acceleration of market.”

Governments are additionally putting the pinch on ICE vehicles to curb air pollution while granting incentives to EVs such as establishing low-emission zones, designating EV parking and lanes. This is happening in concert with the falling cost of renewable energy.

The company is ready for that. Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility program is intently looking at three aspects of future mobility: intelligent power, intelligent driving, and intelligent integration. On its website, Nissan Motor Corp. says that this is “already a reality in Nissans you can drive today — in cars that park themselves, watch what’s happening around you, and step in to keep you out of trouble. Now imagine a near future with cars that can actually learn from one another and EVs that recharge as they drive along, no strings attached. Nissan Intelligent Mobility is making all this, and more, part of a bold, bright tomorrow.”

Nissan is leading the charge with the Leaf, already the world’s bestselling EV with 350,000 units of the car’s first generation delivered. Mr. Thomas shared that 60,000 orders have now been placed for the new Leaf in Japan, the US and Europe, and he harped on the car’s reliability as well. “There’s no film on YouTube with a Nissan Leaf on fire,” he said, with a laugh. Nissan also holds the title for the most electric kilometers driven (4 billion).

For now, the focus for Nissan is in easing in a fully electric tomorrow with its so-called e-Power, “an ideal bridge between ICE and EV, it’s an EV driven by a petrol range extender,” said Mr. Thomas. But there’s no doubt as to the eventual destination. Nissan will release eight new electric vehicles by 2022 — promising a full range of vehicles both emission-less and exciting.

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