7th Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit

Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila

IT’S CLEARLY boiling down to a question of when, not if.

The pace of mobility electrification in the Philippines is increasing, with the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (eVAP) leading the, well, charge. The annual Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit (PEVS), now on its seventh staging, again served as a signpost for and indicator of how far the country has gone and where it will go next in the journey to full electrification.

Themed “Electric Vehicles: Modernizing the Transportation Landscape, Driving Sustainable Growth,” the PEVS was staged last week at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.

Images of man-made and induced catastrophes such as wars and global warming provided some shock value to a gathered audience even as it contrasted with a hopeful window into how tomorrow can be much, much different. “We’re going to make it a better world,” sang Krystal Brimner, who wound up the opening presentation.

Talk about disruption and shifts continue to underpin the gradual, more widespread adoption of emission-free electric vehicles (EVs). This change is being reflected even in the way companies are envisioning themselves — such as car makers calling themselves mobility brands, and gas firms transitioning into energy companies.

Of course, the onus of shrinking our carbon footprint is not just in the hands of automakers (or mobility brands), but our need to get from here to there is an undeniable contributor to greenhouse gases choking us to the tune of seven million deaths a year from upper respiratory illness. It then behooves the people who are churning out automobiles to have them be more environment-friendly. These days, going greener invariably means EVs.

“We are highly encouraged by the support we are getting from major automotive manufacturers which is a very strong indication that our transportation sector is slowly but steadily transitioning to more modern, energy-efficient, greener and sustainable mobility so that we can create cleaner and better cities for our children,” said eVAP President Edmund A. Araga in a release. “Accelerating our country’s transition to fossil-free driving would require, more than ever, the help of our academic institutions in terms of research, innovation, industry linkage, trainings, among others. That’s why this year, we are launching the eVAP Academe Chapter to help close the knowledge gap that is holding back our countrymen from choosing electric vehicles and to help our local EV industry address the barriers to widespread EV adoption.”

Delivering a speech at the PEVS, Mr. Araga exhorted all to continue to provide an “enabling environment for the commercialization of EVs in the Philippines.” Intrinsic to a more conducive industry is for players to have more “clarified roles.” The eVAP head also revealed that the association welcomed four new corporate members into the fold, namely, Kymco Philippines, Lagao Drivers Operators Transport Cooperative, Development of Electric Conveyors Corporation, and Autoitalia Philippines Enterprises, Inc.

In anticipation of heightened battery demand, eVAP also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Philippine Nickel Industry Association so that the two entities may have a closer linkage resulting in research programs, an industry road map, and corporate social responsibility efforts — not to mention a local battery supply chain.

Mr. Araga also cited Senate Bill 2137, filed late last year by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian. The act seeks to provide for “the national energy policy and regulatory framework for the use of electric and hybrid vehicles, and the establishment of electric charging stations.”

On the bill’s introduction, Senator Gatchalian writes, “Notwithstanding the contribution of electric vehicles to energy security, sustainability, and savings, barriers still remain for the development of the industry, specifically the high upfront costs of owning an electric vehicle, and the limited charging infrastructure. Thus, it is crucial that a policy and regulatory framework is in place to usher in the uptake of electric vehicles in the country.”

The bill seeks to “instruct” the Department of Energy (DoE) to create an EV road map and distribution utilities to incorporate a charging infrastructure development plan into their power development, require private and public buildings and establishments to EV-dedicated parking slots with charging stations, mandate open access to integrate charging equipment in gas stations, expand non-fiscal incentives “such as exemption from number coding and prioritization in registration,” and give “time-bound fiscal incentives” for EV manufacturers and importers.

eVAP is also doing its part to encourage allies in the EV campaign by relaunching the E-Mobility Award to “recognize organizations and individuals for their outstanding contribution to the realization of eVAP’s vision and mission through successful EV deployments, advocacy efforts, or through innovations that aim to simplify and increase the electrification process.”

Meanwhile, eSakay, Inc. President Raymond Ravelo declared that there has never been a “more energizing time” for EVs and charging infrastructure as new business models roll out. eSakay is a wholly owned company of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) that purveys electric vehicle solutions. He cited that improvement in battery technology, among others, has contributed to the global rise of EVs from 500,000 in 2015 to a projected 560 million in 20 years. “One of three vehicles in 2040 will be an electric vehicle,” he said.

He insisted, in a speech, that a sign of this “exciting transition in the country” is the increasing number of e-jeepneys plying the streets, along with the deployment of e-trikes by LGUs. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see electric buses and taxis (next),” added Mr. Ravelo. Even the recent proliferation of “electric micro-mobility” solutions such as e-scooters and e-motorcycles augers well for the future of EVs — so long as there are “enabling policies and regulatory frameworks.”

Department of Energy Assistant Secretary, speaking on behalf of the department head Alfonso Cusi, acknowledged that “policies play a critical role” in greater EV adoption. There must be “incentives, standards, (and) support for charging infrastructure,” while bridging the “cost gap” between EVs and conventional vehicles. “For an EV movement to be successful… (we need) to establish partnerships, (have) political will and incentives to build capacity.”

EVs have become more meaningful in light of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) of government, said Department of Transportation (DoTr) Undersecretary Mark Richmund de Leon. He described it as the “biggest transformational initiative of the administration,” as the government seeks to showcase modern vehicles nationwide, including EVs, in order to push for the replacement of aging public transport.

USec. De Leon rued “the sad truth” that 90% of public transport are more than 30 years old, and that jeepneys in particular “are not designed for public transportation,” but are merely a “stop gap.” He also lamented that “we have yet to adopt clean air standards” despite the passing of Republic Act No. 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act way back in 1999, which states in its Declaration of Principles: “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature,” while recognizing that “polluters must pay.”

“Let’s clean up public transportation,” said the DoTr official. “We’re providing comfort to our riding public; the dignity that they deserve.”