Putting electrified mobility to the test

The recent announcement by the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Transportation (DoTr) regarding the activation of the Electric Vehicle Development Act (EVIDA) is commendable. An inter-agency committee is in place to formulate the Global Roadmap for the Electric Vehicle Industry (CREVI). This will be the model for the production, promotion and use of electric vehicles (EVs) in the Philippines. Finally, the country seems to have passed the hype of electric vehicles and is now ready to set things in motion.

What do I expect from this acceleration in the adoption of electric motors? On the one hand, I believe we should start with a broad, nationwide education campaign that explains the “why” of electric vehicles. Arguably, the understanding of the need for electrified vehicles is not yet as broad as it should be. Even in industries where adoption is higher than others, there is still confusion about the technology itself, let alone the need for it.

For example, many still ask how hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) are charged. Should it be plugged in? How long will it take? What is the range? Of course, the answer is that HEVs are self-charging electrified vehicles that don’t need to be plugged in. The electric motor is in fact charged by regenerative braking. The result is a significantly higher fuel efficiency of up to 30 or 40 kilometers per litre. Why is this important? In terms of environmental impact, less fuel consumption means a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and, therefore, in the production of greenhouse gases.

Are HEV vehicles zero emissions? No. Should we marginalize the CO2 reduction made possible by HEVs? No, too. Should we then limit ourselves to HEVs? Well no. The crux of the matter is that electrification is about achieving carbon neutrality, reducing global warming and, therefore, creating a more sustainable environment for ourselves and future generations. It is the alpha and omega of electric vehicles. it’s not because electric vehicles are better designed than ICE vehicles, although TESLA seems to have brought some “sexiness” to electric vehicles. It’s not that electric vehicles are cheaper than ICE cars because they are, in fact, more expensive to produce at least for the foreseeable future. It’s not because EVs create more jobs since there are far fewer parts in EVs with the elimination of the combustion engine from the car.

Are electric vehicles more fun to drive than ICE-powered cars? This question usually generates a very heated argument between supporters of one and the other. ICE enthusiasts say electric vehicles will never replace the thrill, thrill and joy of gas-powered cars. EV enthusiasts, meanwhile, say electrified vehicles pack a lot more punch, are quick to respond and easy to handle. I argue that one doesn’t have to be better than the other; rather, they offer different driving experiences. If we accept that, then there may be enough room in the garage for one of each!

I digress however. Once a reasonable level of understanding is established, I expect the government to encourage car owners to accelerate their adaptation to electrified vehicles. Providing subsidies is one way, but it could be costly for the government. As is the case in other developed countries, price subsidies or government rebates only last for a limited period or are only valid for a specified volume. The objective is to revive interest in electric vehicles by reducing the acquisition cost gap.

Other incentives could also be put in place, focusing on the use of vehicles. For example, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has already issued a circular exempting electric vehicles (hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electrics and all electrified transmissions specified in the EVIDA Act) from color coding. Government and the private sector could also provide preferred parking at commercial establishments or airports. In developed countries, EVs are allowed to use carpool lanes (we may create EV lanes during peak hours in Metro Manila) or free access to central business districts or high congestion areas where road pricing is implemented. These types of measures increase awareness and appeal of electric vehicles. Special financing and insurance rates for the purchase of electric vehicles may also be introduced.

We can certainly have greater expectations of the EVIDA law, including incentives for the development of charging infrastructure, local production and manufacturing of components. These will take time but are of course welcome. I propose that CREVI be divided into two phases. One will be for immediate and short-term promotion and catalysts for the use of electric vehicles. The other concerns medium and long-term measures that will ensure sustainable electrification of mobility in the country.

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