Tracking the progress of electric cars in the Philippines

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As more vehicles are crossing our roads, air quality is deteriorating and greenhouse gas emissions are going up. In response, the automotive industry is pushing forward to decarbonize through electric vehicles (EVs).

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the sector is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, road transportation alone is responsible for 80% of the sector’s emissions.

In the Philippines, EV adoption is picking up to speed, with more models, sustainable initiatives, and investments, from both public and private sectors are being made.

According to a 2023 survey conducted by marketing research company Standard Insights, Filipinos display a positive attitude towards EVs as a top choice for transportation, especially with the younger generation. A significant 50.8% expressed confidence in EVs becoming the future of the automotive industry, showcasing a positive development for the country’s transportation sector.

EVs are also seen as a strategic marketing investment, benefiting brands and driving progress toward EV advancement in the country.

“Similarly, it becomes evident that major industry players are actively pushing for electric cars, making significant investments in marketing to promote their electric models,” Standard Insights said in their report. “Additionally, they are making efforts to educate consumers about electric models, which not only benefits their brand but also contributes to the advancement of the entire category.”

To add, the rise of EVs will continue to lead many individuals to consider them as an alternative and more sustainable option for public transportation. As more EVs populate the streets in the future, the Philippines is moving towards a future with safer streets and healthier environment.

“In the Philippines… the market for EVs has grown significantly and is expected to grow over the coming years. For the first quarter of 2023 alone, the number of EV sales, as already emphasized, has surpassed the total EV sales for the last three years,” Raphael P.M. Lotilla, secretary of the Department of Energy (DoE), said during the 11th Philippines Electric Vehicle Summit last year.

Data from the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP) revealed that EVs are currently increasing the Philippine market size, with 15,300 EV units nationwide, with 354 electric motorcycles and 88 electric buses.

In 2023, EVs are experiencing continued growth as more models are launched to meet consumer demands. These models range from cars, utility vehicles or trucks, or even e-scooters, and e-bicycles.

EV registrations are also looking good so far. Mr. Lotilla reported a total of 194 battery EVs, 32 light EVs, 30 hybrid EVs, 19 plug-in EVs, along with 96 commercial EV charging stations that were installed last year.

From these numbers, the Philippine EV market is expected to further grow in the coming years. EVAP forecasted that the number of electric vehicles will increase to 6.6 million by 2030. Ferdinand Raquelsantos, chairman emeritus of EVAP, shared that the EV target (6.6 million) involves 3.6 million electric motorcycles and 300,000 units of private electric cars.

To reach the target growth, the sector is exploring initiatives, such as including two-wheeled electric vehicle units and modernizing public utility vehicles.

“We are just very optimistic that we can achieve [our targets] by 2030 in line with the support of the government sectors,” Edmund A. Araga, president of EVAP, said.

With the transition to EV, ADB emphasized that the Philippines, just like other countries in Southeast Asia, is poised to become a major player and a manufacturing hub in the EV market. Being the second largest nickel producer globally, it has the resources to support EV battery cells production.

Moreover, many opportunities are seen in the market. The Department of Transportation (DoT), for instance, is advocating for alternative and more sustainable options for public transportation, including e-jeepneys and e-buses.

To further promote EV growth and expansion, DoT is pushing with the DoE for a higher EV rollout from 5% to 10% of all vehicle fleets.

“On the other hand, the aggressive clean energy scenario sets a more ambitious target of at least 50% of all fleets by 2040.  These shall be achieved through various initiatives such as a phased approach to improve EV utilization, promotion of EV manufacturing,” Mr. Lotilla said.

Stepping up the game with mobility innovations, initiatives for EV charging infrastructure are right on track.  In a recent interview with BusinessWorld, Rommel T. Juan, chairman of EVAP, shared that the necessary technology for EVs and its charging infrastructure are quickly catching up, making the country more ready for the EV takeover.

“I think that the country is ready to go full EV. The technology is there, and the infrastructure is catching up fast. When I say catching up, I only mean the public charging stations. However, 98% of EV users charge at home and would only use public chargers when they need to go long distances,” he said.

Having said that, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) is also getting involved in the EV local scene, introducing its charging stations called CharM or Charging in Minutes, an e-mobility solution that is perfect for commercial use. These stations are said to be fully capable of charging electric vehicles and strategically placed in various malls nationwide, providing convenience for EV users.

In a country where transportation is highly prioritized, EV adoption is gaining more momentum. Public and private sectors, industry players, and consumers are leveraging the opportunities presented by the EV market, putting sustainability at the forefront.

“Owning an EV is so very liberating. Just plug in when you get home or in the office, if possible, and you never have to worry about getting gas, or even think about its fluctuations in fuel prices. At EVAP, we have been advocating the use of EVs for 15 years, and we are simply delighted that more and more big brands are introducing their EV models and that more individuals are getting to try them — and actually later purchase EVs. It’s just like switching from a regular cellphone to a smartphone; it’s just better and easier to use,” Mr. Juan said. — Angela Kiara S. Brillantes