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Driven by the belief that the Philippines will, sooner or later, go with the flow of current global trends and embrace electric vehicles (EVs), and fueled by a recent survey among Asean nations that show a substantial percentage of motorists are ready to buy their own EV, many car manufacturers have introduced full-EV models here.
Despite the fact that EVs in the country still lack the support of road infrastructures and legislation, many Filipino motorists are apparently ready to ditch their ICEs (internal combustion engines) in favor of electric mobility, based on a 2020 Frost & Sullivan study commissioned by Nissan that showed 45 percent of about 500 Filipino car drivers surveyed were intending to purchase an EV within the next three years.
The question now is: What will make the other 55 percent choose EVs over traditional internal combustion-powered vehicles?
We know that the urgency of taking better care of our environment has played a key role in the decision of those 225 future buyers of EVs, with 46 percent of those surveyed feeling strongly about the environment and climate change. So, what’s keeping the rest from making that big switch to EVs?
The quick answer might come from that 2020 survey itself, which was conducted in six Asean countries involving 3,000 respondents (500 from each country). The study points out that the top three incentives that would speed up the shift to EVs for Filipinos are tax incentives (80 percent), the presence of charging infrastructure in residential areas (77 percent), and priority lanes for EVs (52 percent).
These incentives aren’t going to pop up overnight, especially when these complex, multisectoral issues require the cooperation of everyone involved.
“That is why collaboration between public and private parties is required to drive further the adoption of EVs. In preparation for the launch of the Nissan Leaf, Nissan Philippines has been working with various stakeholders in promoting EV adoption over the years by educating the public on the benefits of EVs and demystifying misconceptions about EV technology,” said a statement sent by NPI to this writer on Feb. 20.

Tipping point
Ma Fe. Perez Agudo, president and CEO of Hyundai Asia Resources Inc (Hari) and Changan Motor Philippines Inc, told this writer on Feb. 19 that Filipinos would prefer EVs over traditional ICE-powered vehicles once we reach the “tipping point” of the full benefits of using EVs. Hari carries the Kona EV, and Changan Philippines offers the Eado EV460.
“This point may not be far off. There is already a growing consciousness among Filipinos of the economic and environmental benefits of ‘making the switch’ to EVs. It’s just a matter of creating a conducive environment, the presence of charging infrastructure, for example, where EVs can really be a viable mode of transportation in the country,” she said.
Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (eVAP) president Edmund Araga told this writer over a week ago: “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.” He added that these motivations should shape the country’s approach to the adoption of EVs. During an October 2020 interview, 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.
Rommel Sytin, president of United Asia Automotive Group Inc (distributor of Chery and Foton brands in the Philippines), said that “three major factors to change the market mindset are an effective information campaign to address range anxiety issues, lower prices hopefully from reduced taxes or duties on zero-emissions vehicles, and an infrastructure for public charging stations like in mall parking lots and in gasoline stations, especially on our expressways, and even in hotel parking lots for those driving to Baguio or other local tourist destinations.” Chery Philippines offers the Arrizo 5E EV. Sytin told Inquirer Motoring that “price would be the number one driver to get more people to consider and actually buy an EV.” He added that the “Chery Arrizo 5E already has the range to travel a week’s worth of daily commuting, so you only have to charge them every weekend. Given equivalent prices, consumers will save a lot on fuel expenses, from P5,000 to P8,000 a month. That’s a compelling reason for buying an EV. Other reasons are reduced maintenance costs—no more oil and coolant changes, never a fear of overheating, etc.”
Agudo added that to change the market mindset, the following must be addressed:
o First, it appears that the cost of switching from ICE-powered vehicles to EVs is still high. Taking into account the total cost of ownership (maintenance and power), owning an EV can be more economical in the long-run, not to mention the zero environmental costs–which we usually take out of the equation.
o Second, we need to focus on the real capabilities and potential of EV instead of relying on perceived limitations. For instance, we need to address range anxiety and charging flexibility and convenience.  There is the fear that one would run out of power while on the road, without a charging station in sight. The truth is, there are already vehicles in the market that could reach 460 km on a single charge and at a constant speed of 60 kph. We can start building the proper ecosystem for EVs once we realize its true potential.

Lastly, the success of EVs does not depend on the manufacturers/distributors alone. It will take a multi-sectoral approach for us to create the proper ecosystem for EVs. We need to develop the industry by setting up a regulatory framework, implementing tax incentives, removing or relaxing restrictive tariffs, and providing fringe benefits. Existing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), for example with South Korea and China, can facilitate access to crucial technology and needed investments. These are crucial to changing the behavior of investors and market players and promoting demand across the value chain.
Agudo stressed: “We are here to rethink the way we do business in this era of smart mobility. But I sincerely hope that we won’t stop at talking. It is high time to move from talk to action in the interest of the sustainability of our industry and, ultimately, of the nation. It is not too late to get things right—to solve the congestion, the pollution all around while sustaining growth. The challenge is to get more and more people to buy in, so that we can all work together to bring EVs into the mainstream.”

Psychological barrier
NPI pointed out that the Frost & Sullivan study also gives us insight on which areas we should continue educating the public about EVs. Range anxiety and the need for charging infrastructure is still the top barrier for Filipinos and its Asean neighbors to adopt EVs.
NPI also said that another barrier is the perceived safety concerns about EVs. The public needs to know more how safe EV technology has become. In fact, Nissan has sold more than 500,000 units of the Nissan Leaf around the world since 2010 without critical incidents related to either the vehicle technology or batteries.
NPI said that in terms of costs, 56 percent of Filipinos recognize that maintenance costs for an EV is cheaper than a conventional car, and yet 31 percent of those surveyed still perceive the opposite to be true.
“This is where we will continue our educational efforts, especially when we launch the Nissan LEAF in the country,” NPI said.
“Nonetheless, we are making strides in educating the public on the benefits of EVs and demystifying misconceptions about EV technology. The 2020 Frost & Sullivan study compared Filipinos’ perceptions and attitudes between 2020 and 2018, and showed that there is an increased enthusiasm for EVs for Filipinos. Filipinos were shown to be less concerned about running out of power, limited public and personal charging infrastructures, safety, as well as maintenance and operation costs,” added the NPI statement.

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