The Electric Vehicle Revolution in the Philippines

Each day in the Philippines our motor vehicles consume tens of millions of liters of gasoline.  An estimated hourly output of 2,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide is pumped into the air we breathe each hour.  Our country is spending the equivalent of over PHP 50,000 each and every hour to compensate for the treatment of pollution-related diseases and work-related productivity losses. Perhaps the worst statistic is that each hour of each day, four Filipinos die from the effects of air pollution.

Electric Trikes to the Rescue

Motorized tricycles produce an astonishing amount of pollution.  Perhaps more than you ever imagined.   Just one tricycle in the Philippines is producing as much pollution equivalent to 50 modern automobiles.

With tricycles being a major transportation medium in the country, the Philippines is attempting to make strides in clean and pollution-free tricycle transportation solutions with the help of a new Japanese start-up company called Terra Motors who is producing a new electric tricycle.  The vehicle making noteworthy strides is a new all-electric three-wheeled tricycle (otherwise known as an e-trike) that is poised to help clean-up the air quality.  The new vehicle is a sleek and modern space-aged design that holds 6 passengers travels a distance of 31 miles (50 km) on a charge and takes two hours to charge the battery pack.  It is relatively affordable for an electric vehicle at only $6300 per unit.  In order to concurrently help the economy, the vehicle will be made in the Philippines and sold here and throughout Southeast Asia.

E-trikes already operating in Several Philippine Cities

These e-trikes are already operating in certain areas of the country including Puerto Princesa, Makati City, Surigao and in Taguig.  Thanks to some forward and progressive thinking by President Aquino and his staff, along with a $300 million loan from the Asian Development Bank, these new clean and carbon- free vehicles will be seen amass throughout Metro Manila and other cities over the next few years.  This progress can be attributed to a lease-to-own program recently announced that will eventually replace 100,000 gas-powered tricycles with clean and efficient, cost-effective electric powered e-trikes by the year 2016.  This is a substantial effort but more than likely simply a beginning step to the Philippines enormous air pollution problem and ongoing imported fuel demands.

Cost Savings of e-Trikes for Drivers and Society as a Whole

The e-trike will save owner/drivers $5 a day in fuel costs.  From a tricycle owner/drivers perspective whose current salary is only $10 a day, this is a substantial improvement in profit.  Currently, the engines in many of the standard tricycles found in the Philippines are two-stroke units that are some of the most polluting power sources allowed on the streets of our country.  Not only are there no emission control systems on these vehicles but they burn excessive amounts of crankcase oil in addition to the hydrocarbons from the burning of the gasoline to power the vehicles. After the majority of these vehicles are replaced, the potential the substantial improvements in the driver’s health over time by reduced exposure to exhaust fumes, and the resultant health savings are also an important factor.  In fact, in the end, health-related expenses will bring health and financial savings to all of us Filipinos.

Modular Battery Design

These vehicles should lend themselves nicely to a modular battery-pack design that could be removed when the vehicle when the battery’s charge is extinguished and then replaced with another fully-charged battery-pack providing an additional 31 miles of travel.  If the owner has two removable battery packs, the out-of-service pack could be charged at a base location while the e-trike driver is out making his rounds.  The e-trike driver could theoretically provide his service almost uninterrupted and continuously by swapping-out battery packs in this manner.

The government could initiate a loan program to allow these drivers to purchase additional battery packs.  The government could also include the extra battery packs in the lease-to-own program.

Additionally, adding quick charging stations throughout an urban area to improve operating distances may also be a way to help extend e-trikes ranges.  Given the fact the Philippines has a tremendous abundance of sun exposure throughout the year, the charging stations should be provisioned with extensive arrays of solar panels for free energy to charge our new transportation network. This would take the burden off of our power infrastructure and avoid us building new power plants for the transition to electric transportation.

Thanks to new manufacturing processes and the Chinese flooding the market with product, Solar panels have become much more affordable over the last few years; in some cases one-half the price of only a couple of years ago.

The e-Jeepney Movement

Additional environmental and sustainable energy progress is being realized in the e-jeepney movement currently ongoing in the country’s financial district of Makati City.  Twenty one e-jeepneys are currently hitting the streets of this Makati with charging stations strategically placed throughout the district. E-jeepney owners are currently franchised to cover a certain route in the city.

At PHP 700,000, these e-jeepneys are approximately twice the price of the e-trikes but still comparatively reasonable considering the electric technology and prices of most electric cars currently on the market. Besides the obvious benefits in fuel savings air pollution reduction and owner profits, these e-jeepneys are locally produced helping promote and grow our countries economy.  The first ones were produced in 2008 and now are growing in popularity and availability.  Additional measures are needed similar to the e-trike program so as to provide an impetus to massive implementation of the e-jeepneys nationwide.

Senate Passes Alternative Fuel Vehicle Act

The e-movement momentum is alive and well in the halls of our legislature.  The Philippines Senate just passed the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Act in the first quarter of 2013.  This bill is expected to lower the cost of electric vehicles and hybrids by offering tax exemption schemes.  Since the price of electric vehicles (EV’s) is a substantial factor in limiting their widespread use, the Senate wants to do whatever they can to help reduce the price of EVs.

The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Act will extend fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for the importation and manufacture of electric, hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles sources.  Some of the alternative fuels that will qualify for the tax breaks include solar, wind, hydrogen fuel cell, compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Manufacturers of these vehicles in the country will be exempted from paying duties and value-added tax for purchase and importation of assembly components, raw materials, spare parts, and equipment used in the manufacture of alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) for nine years.  Additionally, a nine year exemption of excise tax will be granted to importers of fully completed AFV. The owners of AFVs will not have to pay the usual Road User’s Tax when registering their alternative fuel vehicles. AFVs used as Public-Utility-Vehicles (such as e-jeepneys and e-trikes) will be given priority in the registration process and issuance of plate numbers, along with prioritizing their applications in franchise process.

In Conclusion – Hope for a Clean and Bright Future

Once again, we would like to encourage and give kudos to the administration and the Asian Development Bank for taking this course of action to do something extremely far-sighted to address the issues of pollution, health issues, energy independence and climate change.   We would also like to thank the businessmen in Makati for pushing the e-jeepney movement and the efforts of the Philippine Senate in passing incentive bills to make alternative fuel vehicles less expensive.

Our country has some momentum now; the technology is becoming increasingly affordable, let’s keeps our thinking caps on and moves forward into the 21st century with vim and vigor and a mindset of progressive change.  Our future generations are entirely dependent on us making the right decisions at this juncture in history!  Since we are blessed with abundant solar resources, ever-increasing efforts should be made by the government, NGO’s, and the many businessmen this country has made millionaires out of, that will entirely transform the Philippines into an all electric and solar transportation country.  Filipinos are innovative, smart and resourceful people.   Research and development work should be focused on ongoing and continuous efforts for a clean and modern society.  With the political will and adequate funding, we can become the alternate/green energy transportation example for the rest of the world.

Solar Island

If the Philippines play its cards right and the country takes the steps necessary to avail itself of a timely-opportunity, a prosperous, new possibility exists for the Philippines becoming the location for the next California-based Silicon Valley of the coming solar age – a catchy name begs acceptance – let’s call it Solar Island for now?

The Philippines, leveraging some creative-foresight and focused-campaigning can attempt to prove to the solar cell manufacturing industry the idea that our country is the “right place” to locate their new solar production facilities. We just may be able to literally become the de-facto location for manufacturing much-needed solar panels for an ever-changing world. But we have to act fast and provide the incentives and infrastructure in order to capture the market.

THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO CHANGE

The handwriting is on the wall — the scope of world-events occurring in the last few years has made it very clear – the world needs new, clean energy sources.Given global climate change and its negative consequences – skyrocketing oil prices bankrupting airlines and plummeting automotive sales – countries sending hundreds of billions of dollars to Middle East entities of ill-repute – foreign oil dependence leading to a developed country’s instability quotient – the world is ready for a change.

It’s clear the countries of the world will be turning to alternative, safe, clean, renewable power from new sources in order to fulfill their energy demands over the next several decades. The number-one most likely source of this power should be the sun. In 2006, the worldwide market for solar cells was already at $9.5 billion and growing by approximately 20 percent per year. Numerous companies are racing towards the finish-line to development ever-increasing efficiency factors and streamlined processes for the manufacture of these cells for the huge market about to explode.

PROGRESSIVE GERMANY

Germany became creative way back in the year 2000 when their government adopted a subsidy law called the Energy Act requiring the large power companies to purchase all solar power at premium rates from any solar startup project.This spurred a huge growth in Germany’s solar footprint. While they are embracing solar technology to help mitigate global climate change, a very desirable outcome occurred.Solar cell manufacturing companies and other components prospered tremendously under the new energy act and have put an additional 40,000 Germans to work.

CURRENT PHILIPPINES SOLAR COMPANIES

The Philippines already has important solar cell manufacturing company assets; we host two major world players in the solar cell manufacturing business – SunPower and Solaria.A short bio and Philippine footprint of these companies follows.

SunPower, a publically-traded, high-value maker of silicon crystal PV solar cells, produces cells with a 22% light-to-electricity conversion ratio – these are the most efficient cells made anywhere in the world.SunPower operates two manufacturing plants in the Philippines showing an impressive $220 million in solar panel exports for 2006.This cutting-edge company is currently building a new 250 megawatt all-solar power plant in San Luis Obispo, California alongside an even larger 550 megawatt solar plant to be built and operated by another major player in the solar industry known as OptiSolar.These projects represent an important milestone in U.S. power generation in that PG&E, a major California electric and gas utility, will be purchasing the power and supplying it to the actual power grid in California. These two power projects will provide enough energy to serve approximately 239,000 residential homes each year.

Solaria, a privately-held solar cell company, also operating a manufacturing facility in the Philippines, has pioneered a new crystal silicon PV solar cell production method that is more cost-effective than most others. Last year, Solaria brokered a new deal with the second-largest solar cell manufacturing company in the world, Q-Cells. This cell supply agreement guarantees Solaria access to a huge 1.35 gig watts of production capacity over the next ten years.In 2007, when the deal was forged, this contract represented one of the industry’s largest solar cell deals ever. This cell supply arrangement will enable Solaria to produce well over 2.7 gig watts of photo voltaic modules using its proprietary cell-multiplication technology over the next 10 years – a large percentage of these cells will originate from the Philippines.

NEW SOLAR TECHNOLOGY

The last several years have given rise to several new technologies for the solar cell manufacturing processes utilizing various types of semiconductor material.We will investigate one of the major processes becoming increasingly popular below.

The CIGS process stands for Copper Indium Gallium Selenide and is characteristically a thin-film process for disbursing semiconductor material composed of those same elements named above.The CIGS process (a more cost-effective process companies like OptiSolar use) is less efficient than the standard silicon crystal junction technology, producing less electrical power for a given amount of light energy.Silicon crystal junction technology has been the mainstream solar cell production process for many years.The reason the CIGS process is less expensive for making product is the deposition of the semiconductor material is much easier, thereby allowing for much faster, higher-volume and significantly less expensive manufacturing processes.The leader in this solar cell process is Global Solar who is actually producing solar cells on a flexible base material that is substantially lighter than the crystal silicon method, and can be bent to conform to curved surfaces.

Venture capitalists have poured more than $344 million into five other CIGS-type companies in the last few years.These companies are Nanosolar, Miasolé, Solopower, Solyndra, and Heliovolt.This new technology currently looks like the most probable future process.

COMPANIES WITHIN OUR REACH

There are a host of large and small-scale solar cell manufacturing companies throughout the world pushing to position their company to the forefront of the new age of green energy production.Industry sources say there are over 200 solar cell manufacturers in the world with new startups climbing on board the solar wagon almost every week.

Below is a partial list of some of the more prominent solar cell manufacturing companies in the race to meet the expectations of a world in need of energy independence and green power.

Let’s encourage our president and politicians to pursue these companies with completely eliminated tax and tariffs and other incentives to encourage them to build solar manufacturing in the new Solar Island of the Philippines.

Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. (CIGS)
AVA Solar (CdTe)
Avancis (CIGS)
CaliSolar (UMG Si) [1]
Calyxo (CdTe)
Covalent Solar (CPV) [2]
DayStar Technologies (CIGS)
Dyesol (DSSC) [3]
Ersol Solar Energy AG (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
First Solar (CdTe)
Fuji Electric Systems Co., Ltd. (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
G24 Innovations (DSSC) [4]
Global Solar Energy (CIGS)
Heliatek (OP)
HelioVolt (CIGS)
Honda Soltec Co., Ltd. (CIGS)
Innovalight (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
JA Solar Holdings
Johanna Solar Technology (CIGS)
Kaneka (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
Konarka (OP)
Matsushita Battery Industrial Co., Ltd. (CdTe)
Miasole (CIGS)
Mitsubishi Heavy industries (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
Nanosolar (CIGS)
Odersun (CIGS)
Oerlikon Solar
Plextronics (OP)
PrimeStar Solar (CdTe)
Q-Cells (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
ShadePlex (Thin film cells bonded to architectural fabrics) [5]
Sharp (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si), is trying to wean itself from silicon by focusing on thin-film solar cells. [6]
Showa Shell Sekiyu (CIGS), plans to work with semiconductor equipment maker Ulvac Inc on research to raise efficiency of the panels [6].
Solarmer (OP)
Solibro (CIGS)
Solyndra (CIGS)
Sulfurcell (CIGS)
Sunpower
United Solar Ovonics (Amorphous/nanoparticle Si)
Würth Solar (CIGS)
Main article: Solar cell

FILIPINOS ARE ALREADY CONTRIBUTING

Filipino engineers working for SunPower and Solaria have contributed greatly in making many improvements to solar cell manufacturing processes.Some of these include streamlined testing and analysis of complete panels and individual solar cells, new soldering methods for solar cell interconnection, automation methods, new manufacturing material analysis, new quality control methods and logistical improvements involving material handling.

Filipinos can use the presence of companies like SunPower and Solaria to attract direct suppliers and venders in order to encourage other solar companies to take advantage of the Philippines as an effective and efficient manufacturing location.If we are going to attract additional companies, an efficient supply chain and logistical support system will need to be improved and assurance for continual growth.Perhaps the Clark Freeport with its many incentives is an ideal area for the creation of a Solar Centric Valley.

In our efforts to attract new companies, we should continue to research new technologies, processes, understand company profiles and their needs, and most importantly, remaining one-step ahead of the game.Only then can we cease the moment and become a viable and efficient manufacturing location for these important energy-related companies of today and tomorrow.

As Clark and Subic locators, let’s put our heads together, talk to the most influential people in power we may know, and work to get the wheels rolling. Maybe Solar Island is the destiny for the Clark/Subic corridor? Each of us can do our part to help encourage this idea and set the stage for a new and brighter tomorrow for the Philippines.If the sun is the road to a more shining future, then let’s follow it.