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An electric vehicle that could beat a Tesla Model 3 has been rolling out in China, hitting the global EV icon where it matters most, at the sales floor.
Two weeks ago, Asia Nikkei reported that China’s top automaker SAIC had produced an electric car that retails for just about $4,500 (P220,000 in current forex rates). Marketed as “the people’s commuting tool”, the Hong Guang Mini EV could run 120 km on a full charge, with a top speed of 100 kph—good enough for day-to-day driving for most city dwellers. The battery isn’t so cutting-edge, which helps keep the price down, and can conveniently be charged from a standard power outlet. The EV is the result of a joint venture with US car giant General Motors.
However basic this EV may sound, it’s still outselling Tesla’s bestselling EV two to one in China. And it all comes down to price. You can buy 9 Hong Guang Mini EVs with the Tesla Model 3’s $40,000 SRP.
The obvious differences in range, power, amenities, and other nifty technologies doesn’t really matter. According to a Feb. 25 BBC article: “Car experts have said that while it clearly lags well behind Tesla when it comes to its battery, range and performance, its convenience and low price have made it one of China’s bestselling ‘new-energy’ vehicles.”
With Chinese motorists getting the option of a decent EV from global carmakers priced lower than a secondhand car, can such a thing happen as well in the Philippines? I recently asked persons well-versed in the science and business (and perhaps the politics) of EVs, and though they didn’t state a definitive answer as to when, they did give hints as to how this would happen.
Ferdinand Raquelsantos, president of the Philippine Parts Maker Association (PPMA) and the Electric Vehicle Owners’ Society (eVOS), said that it could be done, but things need to happen first. “We need to have the eV Bill pass in the bicameral to start the appetite to produce locally. We also need a local manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries who can source and process nickel locally. That P200,000 price is just right for the size of a smart car.”
Ma. Fe Perez-Agudo, president and CEO of Hari (Hyundai Asia Resources Inc, which carries the Kona EV), Changan Motor Philippines Inc (which offers the Eado EV460) and Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors Inc (Avid) revealed that the Philippines “has 5 percent of global nickel reserves and 4 percent of global cobalt reserves, which are important to the manufacturing of EV batteries.”
Raquelsantos, who is also chairman emeritus of Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (eVAP), added: “We need to mass produce electric motors, while our local electronics industry needs to produce controllers and on-board chargers, including the charging station apparatus.”
Edmund Araga, president of the Asian Federation of Electric Vehicles Association (Afeva) and the eVAP, assessed: “I’m not sure when SAIC will introduce their electric cars here in Manila. They are still waiting for the eV Bill, as tariffs make the difference.”
In a previous interview, Araga said Senate Bill 1382 (The EV and Charging Station Act) was 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 the “Nissan Futures—Electrification and Beyond” online conference early in February, Araga stressed the importance of government initiatives as these would “play a major role to implement such opportunity in addressing public transportation with a more systematic approach whether for the purpose of traceability, safety and security of the commuters.” He added that “such regulations would be the key in establishing the EV industry as a whole in providing incentives or subsidy programs for manufacturers, EV users and the like in creating a potential market approach, with in-place infrastructure being most beneficial in creating a supply chain, from the vehicle to its charging stations to job generation.”
The goal of lowering prices of EVs is just one part of a wide-ranging wave of changes that are expected to happen in the motoring landscape once legislation and infrastructure are in place. “EVs are expected to play a big role in transport fleets. We can also segment them into various markets. In the short term, light EVs are expected to play a big role in passenger transport, urban logistics and in the service industries. These are the two- and three-wheelers, electric quads and mini-delivery vans. The Asean market is price sensitive, and these vehicles are already widely used in China, pushing down component prices and making these products competitive in the region. In some cases, however, while the life cycle costs are lower than that of internal combustion engines (ICEs), their initial costs are significantly higher. Thus, the need for some supporting policies and incentives to accelerate adoption,” explained Araga.

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