E-vehicle makers eye battery tie-ups with nickel industry

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ELECTRIC VEHICLE makers are partnering with nickel miners and processors to explore possible joint development of batteries to help bring down the cost of e-tricycles and e-jeeps.

“If [the battery is] locally manufactured, it might lower the cost because the supply chain is here. But there’s a probability that it would lower the cost,” Edmund A. Araga, president of the Electric Vehicles Association of the Philippines (EVAP), told reporters on Wednesday.

He made the statement after his group tied up with the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) to support “The Nickel Initiative 2019,” a pioneering event next month that gathers, among others, the consumers and producers of nickel.

“Just to give you some details, the battery is about half the cost of each e-vehicle,” he said.

Mr. Araga said the development of battery manufacturing is crucial for the Philippines at a time of increased adoption of the e-vehicles and the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program.

He said as of last year, about 7,000 e-vehicles were registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO), although the count included e-trikes that had been distributed. He was referring to the program funded by the Asian Development Bank that was scaled down because the expensive units failed to attract buyers.

This year, Mr. Araga said he expects e-vehicle sales to reach a conservative estimate of “more than around 12,000.”

“We already have e-vehicle manufacturing, but battery manufacturing is the only thing lacking.

The infrastructure on the batteries has to level up,” he said.

In a news conference ahead of the event next month, Clarence J. Pimentel Jr., chairman of The Nickel Initiative, said most lithium-ion batteries for e-vehicles now rely on nickel.

Aside from EVAP, the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) has also joined the nickel industry to support the event.

Florian Gottein, ECCP executive director, said many European car manufacturers are looking to e-vehicles and that they are “radically” changing their models in the next couple of years.

“So I think there’s a huge demand. Currently, I think the big question also with those companies in Europe is where do we source the batteries from. And I think that’s definitely a chance for this country and also for us here,” he said, adding that bringing industry players together is an important step in the right direction.

ECCP, which has close to 800 members, is a foreign chamber that promotes European interests in the Philippines. It offers a business network that promises to help its members realize business opportunities.

The Nickel Initiative conference, which takes place on March 18 to 19, will tackle issues that cut across the industries involved in the nickel supply chain, its inter-relationships and potential areas for collaboration.

“The Philippines is the world’s second-largest supplier of nickel ore and as such, it is imperative that we take the lead in discussing the future of nickel consumption and on how we can make it sustainable and collaborative so that it can drive further development not just here in the Philippines but globally,” said Dante R. Bravo, president of PNIA. — Victor V. Saulon