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.