When engineer Ferdinand Raquelsantos gets behind the wheel, that’s when he wears many hats. As president of Solar & Wind Electric Power Inc, he advocates for clean energy. As the owner of AutoFir Enterprises, which makes and distributes seat belts and airbags, he advocates for safe motoring. As the president of the Philippine Parts Maker Association, he pushes for the growth of local auto parts manufacturing. As president of the Electric Vehicle Owners Society (eVOS) and chairman emeritus of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (eVAP), he plays Cupid between the Filipino motorist and electric vehicles (eVs).
And for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, on good roads or bad, Ferdi sees the future of mobility hinging on alternative energies, primarily on electrification.
Nearly 15 years ago, Ferdi and his team at the Philippine Utility Vehicle Inc (PhUV) were already conceiving of ways to electrify PUVs.
“We were making electric jeepneys for public transport in 2007, and I decided to make an electric car in 2010. By then we were already assembling electric trikes and quads. I figured it would be easier to convert an existing car than create an entirely new one. So, I decided to use my vintage 1976 Toyota Corolla Publica which has a 1000cc engine,” recalled Ferdi.
The makeover of his car, from classic to electric, proved to be complicated. “I removed the engine and positioned the 5kw electric motor into the engine bay. The problem, then, was how to connect the shaft of the electric motor to the existing transmission. Then I found a bolted bushing wherein one bush was connected to the shaft of the electric motor and the other was splined to the tranny. Then, by bolting the two bushings together, I was able to do the connection. We called this bushing ‘Love-Joy’.”
The entire process certainly wasn’t a whirlwind affair, Ferdi stressed. “It took me three weeks to complete the conversion and another month to have it LTO registered (Land Transportation Office), considering there was no classification yet for e-cars nor a category for eV conversion. It was the first registered e-car and eV conversion.”
Nor was it cheap. Ferdi revealed, “For the conversion, it cost me about P250,000, and this includes the cost of the electric motor, controller, charger, batteries and the fabrication.”
The constant qualities that kept Ferdi going through all this were his sheer dedication to the build, and the belief that eVs would define the future of transportation. For him, “Love-Joy” was just the “on” switch for something much bigger to happen down the line.
It was in 2011 when I was able to get behind the wheel of Ferdi’s yellow e-Publica. I rolled the windows down (there was no air-conditioning) and savored the rush of fresh air in an exclusive village in Alabang in Muntinlupa City, astounded by the utter lack of engine noise and a tailpipe. “Love-Joy” was quiet, alright, but it was heavy, and I felt it most during acceleration and steering. Ferdi hadn’t installed a power steering mechanism, and to complete the silence, there was no audio system.
Yet, “Love-Joy” was loud and clear when it drove home the point that, with a good measure of perseverance, you could make a car run on the power of positivity. Or negativity. Whatever, anything other than polluting fossil fuels.
“Love-Joy” was, in fact, expressway-legal. Ferdi clocked its top speed at 60 kph and a range of about 100 km.
Ten years after my encounter with the e-Publica, I asked Ferdi how “Love-Joy” was now. He said it was still up and running, and he even installed some key improvements and other creature comforts along the way.
“I’ve changed the battery since then. It now runs on a 72-volt battery from the original 12-piece 6-volt lead acid battery. After about five years of use, I decided to replace it with a much lighter set of 6 piece- 12-volt battery with 120 ampere-hour. On my next battery change, I plan to install an even much-lighter Lithium-ion battery set,” Ferdi disclosed.
The silence has been broken, a bit, as Ferdi said that a stereo has been installed. Next up for “Love-Joy” would be the air-conditioning and electric steering systems. “I already have both of them, but haven’t installed them yet.”
Proof of concept
Eleven years into his journey with “Love-Joy”, Ferdi is adamant that LTO’s first registered eV is a solid proof of concept for eVs to thrive in the local setting.
“Now, we see a lot of imported eVs, and I believe this is the right time to shift from our regular e-jeeps to locally assembled e-cars or even e-vans. The conversion I did a decade ago, and the succeeding ones that we did prepare us to go now for local e-car assembly. And with new digital technologies, these can be fitted in our upcoming models,” stressed Ferdi.
“This advocacy of ours when we started in 2006 has been strengthened with all we see now and in the plans of big carmakers. They’re doing away with the internal combustion engine and shifting to eVs. We don’t want to miss the boat. It’s time we really concentrate on building our own homegrown eVs. This will all escalate if the eV Bill in the Senate passes. We have worked for this bill for five years now since Senator Ralph Recto penned a bill for eVs,” he said.
“We now have the experience, and a lot of players are producing their own eVs, whether they’re e-motorcyles, e-trikes, e-buses, etc. This is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for. Per (the Nissan Futures) survey, Filipino consumers now prefer owning an eV,” Ferdi added.
And if Ferdi the eV Cupid’s arrow flies straight and true, many enterprising Pinoys can make a world-class industry out of producing eVs, too.
In photo: Ferdi Raquelsantos with his yellow e-Publica