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Joshua Lao

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The government push to upgrade domestic transportation and the modernization of public utility vehicles, particularly the jeepney, has stimulated the market as reflected in the volume of investments entering the country.

The Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMV) is among the flagship non-infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration, which aims to revolutionize the public transportation system with the introduction of electric-powered vehicles.

Cost of charging depleted e-jeepney batteries is 60 to 70 percent cheaper than gassing up at the station, according to estimates.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Tribune, the country’s premiere power distributor, Manila Electric Company (Meralco) bared the highlights of the program.

Seventh summit

Taking off from the recent e-vehicle summit, which is already on its seventh edition, Meralco’s electric vehicle product manager Anthony Agoncillo bared various investor interest in the rising industry in the Philippines.

“We just finished the seventh summit, together with the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines. (We saw) the entry of more players in the industry, from battery manufacturers to major auto manufacturers,” Agoncillo said.

“(It’s) a welcome news for the Philippine industry because initially, most of the vehicles sold in the market were for public utility purposes. The general public needs to see the big players come in as they are going to be the impetus for people to have confidence in buying electric vehicles,” he added.

Prospectively lower cost down the line is helping convince motorists to migrate from internal combustion engines.

The Meralco executive said the e-vehicles on offer come with warranties similar with the ones that come with the typical gasoline-powered automobiles. This will help boost confidence among the new buyers as they consider the shift to e-vehicles.

This confidence, in turn, will help buyers realize the comparative value of electric vehicles to the fuel-burning cars that they are currently using minus the harmful effects to the environment and lower maintenance costs in the long run.

“So those are the things that we are seeing that are basically creating a very good sense of the market wherein the Philippine electric vehicle market is actually growing, the big players coming in, more investors, and the general sense that market is on an upstream for the Philippines,” Agoncillo said.

Now that the e-vehicle market is starting to make a dent in the transportation sector, various e-vehicle companies took notice as they expressed interests of venturing and positioning themselves in the industry.

Minimal power consumption is another edge of e-vehicles over conventional powered machines.

“The industry has been around for more than 10 years already. Basically, it started as a very small deployment of electric shuttles. It started in Makati and then Meralco backed it up with an electric shuttle operating within its compound,” Agoncillo recalled.

“And then it has been growing. You see the Asian Development Bank (ADB) come in, providing 3,000 electric tricycles that are now deployed in different local government units,” he added.

He cited the E-Sakay for instance, a company with electric jeepneys plying the Mandaluyong-Makati route and vice-versa, which mirrors the seriousness of investors in the deployment of electric vehicles in the country.

“There is that sense. . . there are many deployments happening. It’s not just within a specific city. It’s happening all over because…people are seeing more electric vehicles around,” Agoncillo explained, noting the public awareness it created and raking in investments in the process.

Impressive features

The entry of e-vehicles in the country is seen to convince car owners to shift to e-cars given their impressive features such as lower energy costs over the long haul.

“Number one, electricity is cheaper than gasoline…number two, a lithium ion electric vehicle is 60 to 70 percent cheaper to run than using fuel and then the third one is maintenance costs,” Agoncillo said.

“For a regular jeepney, you will need to put fuel, additives (and) of course maintenance for the running parts. An electric vehicle technically, does not need maintenance,” he added.

State-owned lending institutions LandBank and the Development Bank of the Philippines support the program with affordable financing scheme.

In terms of consumption, given traffic conditions in Metro Manila, an e-vehicle definitely has an edge over gasoline-powered counterparts as it consumes minimal or no power at all while idle or stuck in the middle of a heavy traffic area.

“The other thing we have seen on electric vehicles is its cost to drive per kilometer…testing the capability of electric vehicles in terms of consumption, range, performance…we have seen that an electric vehicle like a Tesla or any lithium ion-powered electric vehicle, its consumption per kilometer is just in the one peso level,” the Meralco official said.

“Comparatively, a diesel car or a gasoline car would consume anywhere from P7 to P9 per kilometer. So that alone will give you around 60 to 70 percent savings in terms of energy or energy requirements,” he added.

The government has actively promoted PUVMV via the concerned agencies, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Department of Transportation. Also, state-run lenders LandBank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines have already launched their respective funding programs to extend financial assistance to interested individuals and groups.

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