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Before any purchase, there must be demand. Before the demand, there must be need. Before the need, there must be awareness. Electric vehicles (EVs) in the Philippines have had to traverse a rough road in the automotive marketing landscape due to multiple factors. Even now, as more and more countries—including developing ones—have embraced and acknowledged EVs as the future of mobility, many Filipino motorists still cannot envision EVs as the dominant form of transport in the near future.

But if we’re to go by the results of a study from a Japanese car manufacturer, perceptions may already be quickly in flux.

According to a Nissan-commissioned study by Frost & Sullivan titled “The Future of Electrified Vehicles in Southeast Asia” released Feb. 4 during the “Nissan FUTURES – Electrification and Beyond” online conference which gathered industry leaders, government officials and media, up to 45 percent of Filipino car drivers have stated that they would certainly consider an electrified vehicle as their next car purchase within the next three years. The positive impact to the environment has been the most motivating factor for Filipinos to buy an EV, as 46 percent of respondents—the highest in the region—feel strongly about the environment and climate change.

The study was conducted 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 (500 from each participating Asean country), to understand customers’ awareness, attitudes, behavior and perceptions towards EVs. “Electrified vehicle” in this study means battery-electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and e-Power. It excludes full hybrid vehicles. The research is a follow-up from a study conducted in January 2018.

The study has also unveiled growing environmental awareness across Southeast Asia, with respondents believing that their adoption of an EV would undoubtedly contribute to environmental protection. In 2020, 38 percent of regional respondents could be classified as “environmentalists”, compared to 34 percent in a similar research in 2018.

This group of consumers is driven by strong environmental awareness and climate change concerns. They view EV use as a way to do their bit for the environment.

“In the Philippines, EV adoption could be anchored on climate change control (we’re also one of the most vulnerable), energy security and improvement of balance of payments (we import 97 percent of our petroleum needs) and industry development to generate jobs,” said Edmund Araga, president of the Asian Federation of Electric Vehicles Association. Araga, who is also the president of Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines, added that these motivations should shape the country’s approach to the adoption of EVs.

Araga told Inquirer Motoring that Senate Bill 1382 (The EV and Charging Station Act) is still on its second reading and “put on pause, waiting for the approval of the CREATE Act (Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises) to pass as it concerns incentives.” During an October 2020 interview with Inquirer Motoring, Araga said that regulations would be key to scale up EV charging stations, which he indicated would be put up in 73 locations in the Philippines.

Araga told participants, “The key learning is that the adoption should be anchored on a very clear motivation.” He cited European nations as examples. “In addition to controlling its GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions, Norway has surplus hydropower, thus it is in its interest to promote EVs strongly.” He added that The Netherlands would be one of the most climate vulnerable countries in the world, so it needs to urgently cut down on GHG emissions while showing the world that it could be done. He also pointed out that, in addition to controlling GHG emissions, the United Kingdom has been positioning itself as a center of innovation and knowledge creation, and thus expected to be a global key player in e-mobility.

Isao Sekiguchi, regional vice president for Nissan Asean, stated during the conference: “The Asean is a very dynamic region, home to a fast-growing middle class. From 650 million people today, the Asean region will reach 700 million people in the coming years. It’s also a very young region with a median age below 34 years old; active people who want to go out and explore. Owning a car gives them that opportunity. It provides them convenience and a safe way to commute. In fact, many consumers here are the first ones in their family to own a vehicle. Simply said: the demand for personal mobility is real. Yet, at the same time, the stress on big cities in the region is also real. We’re all familiar with the pollution in our megacities.”

He stressed that the World Health Organization has labelled air pollution as the greatest environmental risk to health.

“And less in the public eye, more in the public ear if you want, is noise pollution. Transportation produces an average high of 83 decibel noise level in key Asean cities. That is equivalent to a noisy food blender or an alarm clock. Extended exposure to these sound levels can cause hearing issues.

“While electrified mobility is not the solution to every problem, (EVs are) cleaner and produce much less noise than traditional vehicles. They help make our cities better places to live. Globally, EVs of all kinds are moving from the early adopter phase to mainstream adoption twice as fast as we’ve previously seen. And here in Southeast Asia, this new study from reputable research company Frost & Sullivan shows a clear demand as well. Two in three consumers across Asean say they will inevitably adopt electrified mobility as part of their lives in the near future. This is largely because consumers in this region want to be ‘greener’,” Sekiguchi explained.

Power sources

A high 81 percent of study respondents across the region mentioned that their choice would be significantly influenced by different power sources. This care for the environment was found to be most important to consumers in the Philippines and Thailand.

In line with the 2018 findings, over three-quarters of the recent study respondents (77 percent) indicate that tax benefits and installation of charging stations at apartment buildings (75 percent) are the top two incentives for them to switch to an EV. For Filipinos to make that switch to EVs, survey respondents identify tax incentives (80 percent), charging infrastructure in residential areas (77 percent), and priority lanes for EVs (52 percent) as top incentives for that move. This demonstrates the ongoing need for car manufacturers, policy makers and private parties to collaborate to spur the adoption of electrified mobility.

Given this favorable public climate for EV acceptance, Nissan’s iconic EV Leaf may find itself more warmly introduced in the Philippines, and get into owners’ hands in no time, as Sekiguchi clearly stated in the conference: “The new Nissan Leaf, the world’s first mass-market EV, is available in Asean in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as in Hong Kong. We are excited to bring it to customers in Indonesia and the Philippines within the coming months too.”

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