Fallen on deaf ears: Filipinos’ valid concern over EV ownership

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The push for electrification wasn’t just about futurism and unrequited romance with the idea of being high-tech. It aligns with the human race’s fight against global warming, which has reached an alarming rate as of this writing. If you’re one to deny this phenomenon amid the several pieces of evidence out there, then, by all means, turn around and take your ignorance somewhere else.

You see, on the quest for progress and development, mankind has forgotten (or has purposely turned a blind eye on) the negative effects of its addiction to fossil fuels. It’s like a limerick that no one wanted to hear – until the punchline involves the rest of us.

And here we are – the adversity is already on our tails, prompting world leaders to take action. Finally.

Like students cramming to finish their projects, the goal to reverse or even curb the negative effects of air pollution is a tall order. But valiant efforts are still better than not doing anything at all.

The world is way ahead of us

In my previous piece about the death of internal-combustion engines (ICE), I’ve pointed out the solutions of these world leaders. While differing in timelines, the goal is straight-forward: banning sales of brand new vehicles that sip fuel within 10 years or so, and ultimately clearing carbon emissions by 2050.

But the process wasn’t as simple as Uniqlo’s transition from Summer to Spring Collection. Along with the development of electric vehicles, which major auto manufacturers have been doing a great job so far, the government and the car companies need to create demand.

Various campaigns were in place – both in marketing and factual perspective – but the most effective, and frankly most attractive selling point? Incentives.

In the U.S. and in most parts of the world, customers who opt for full-electric vehicles get incentives in the form of cashback from manufacturers, which put EV prices in line with or even lower than their ICE counterparts. That’s possible through various government programs that award EV makers, which are then passed on to the end consumers. This allows them to hop onto the EV bandwagon in as little stress to the pockets as possible. It’s the other way around in Europe. Those who buy gas-guzzling vehicles in the Old Continent get penalized by taxes, increasing the sticker price by 30% to 40%.

And these measures were effective. The year 2020 was regarded as the year of plug-in electric vehicles. Despite the pandemic, EV sales have surged in relation to each automaker’s overall sales. People were making the switch.

But these strategies wouldn’t have paid off if not for the governments’ support and charging infrastructures that ensure normal EV ownership. For example, the U.S. has a supercharger network laid out in several states. Europe has it similar, while Japan recently has announced that its number of charging stations now exceeds the population of fuel stations, which brings us to the biggest elephant in the room: the Philippines.

What the Philippine government has (or hasnt) done so far

It would be a blatant lie if I tell you that the Philippines doesn’t dream of joining the electric vehicle revolution. Thanks to the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP), there’s a ray of hope for battery-powered and hybrid powertrains, albeit a bleak one. These topics are discussed during the annual Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit.

My first attendance at the Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit was on its sixth installment in 2018. Back then, there was a bright future for electric vehicles in the country. Optimism was in the air. The public and private sectors were working hand-in-hand to pave way for hopefully more cars with electric motors. Promises were declared, but I guess our nation’s in love in succumbing to clichés.

It’s understandable that there was little progress on the side of the government in 2020. The pandemic was and is the top priority, and even in that regard this regime has a questionable pace, but I digress.

While the development was honestly snail-paced in 2018, there would have been plenty of time before 2020 for the government to take action in favor of vehicle electrification. If they can easily enact a law that targets terrorists within the blink of an eye, or pursue a useless bill to nationalize our form of greeting, then surely a measure meant to mitigate something that could harm the Filipino population as a whole should have taken the driver’s seat.

None of these have happened – not to a certain extent anyway. To be fair, there was an improvement on House Bill 4075 or the proposed “Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act.” A technical working group (TWG) was created in June 2020, which Bataan Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia III was named the head.

But that’s the last time we’ve heard of that bill. As of this writing, the bill’s status is listed as “Pending with the Committee on Energy since 2019-08-28” on congress.gov.ph.

If there’s progress – and I sincerely hope there’s one happening under the radar – we have yet to hear any.

The Study

Are you afraid of making the switch to electric vehicles? So am I, along with the respondents of a recent study.

I and a number of motoring journalists all over the ASEAN attended an online webinar called “Nissan FUTURES – Electrification and Beyond” recently. It’s meant to check the current status of electrification among ASEAN Nations, and to present the results of a recent Nissan-commissioned study by Frost & Sullivan.

The study “The Future of Electrified Vehicles in Southeast Asia” was conducted by Frost & Sullivan in September 2020 in six ASEAN markets: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The findings are based on 3,000 online customer responses among car drivers in select cities, to understand customers’ awareness, attitudes, behavior, and perceptions towards electrified vehicles.

According to the study, 45% of Filipino car drivers would certainly consider electric vehicles as their next car purchase within the next three years. That’s a huge percentage mind you, translating to nearly one of two road users you see behind the wheel. The biggest motivation is the positive impact on the environment, reflecting 46% of the answers from the respondents.

Those weren’t the only rvelation from the survey. Filipinos are still anxious about range anxiety, or the fear of not reaching a charging station before the battery goes empty, and rightfully so. But this isn’t exactly a conundrum, which can be solved with the support of the government.

You might argue that it’s easier said than done,but we aren’t the ones in the position to do anything. The push for electrification is a two-pronged approach that will not happen without the needed support from those in power. The Filipinos’ concerns over EV ownership are certainly valid but have been falling on deaf ears for too many years already.

But then again, priorities.


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