Finally, mineral-rich Philippines will develop its own batteries for renewable energy and a growing electric vehicle (EV) industry.
The Center for Advanced Batteries will be established under the leadership of the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) and in collaboration with the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UPD). The two institutions will receive over P142 million in funding in the next three years to develop advanced batteries for the alternative transport and renewable energy industries.
This was part of the announcement of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) last May 28, as the department approved the creation of what it calls seven new Niche Centers in the Regions (Nicer) for research and development programs under the Science for Change Program (S4CP). Higher education institutions (HEIs) such as TIP and UP would be the recipients of the over P540 million budget to spur research and innovation in the countryside, and promote the country’s industrial competitiveness in the region.
Of the seven Nicer programs, the Center for Advanced Batteries will be receiving the biggest funding. Other supported HEIs include: De La Salle University-Laguna (over P26 million) for setting up a Center for Vector of Diseases; Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (over P107 million) for the establishment of a Center for Sustainable Polymers; Isabela State University, in collaboration with Cagayan State University and Quirino State University (over P77 million) for the creation of Smart Water Infrastructure and Management R&D Center in the field of disaster risk reduction and climate change; Don Mariano Marcos State University (almost P80 million) for the establishment of a Coastal Engineering R&D Center;
Laguna State Polytechnic University in collaboration with UP-Diliman (over P53 million) for setting up the Center for Lakes Sustainable Development, and; Polytechnic University of the Philippines, in collaboration with UP-Diliman and Adamson University (over P53 million) for its Center for Environmental Technologies and Compliance.
“The DOST-S4CP, in funding research and development centers, capacitates the regions to become innovation hubs,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato T. dela Peña. “By supporting R&D, we serve the academe, the local industry, and in turn, the country due to the entrepreneurial advancement provided to the local community.”
As project lead of the Center, TIP aims to optimize batteries and lower their costs through the use of nickel and iron and renewable energy storage for electric cars. The Center’s initial project, the Advanced Cathode Materials for next-generation batteries, will include novel compounds for use in renewables and EVs.
Subsequent undertakings will include: The Renewed Edison Battery with Advanced Cell Architecture for High-Energy Density Applications (REBCell). This improves the performance of old battery technology by increasing energy and power densities, while using existing indigenous materials such as nickel and iron, which are abundantly found in the country, and; Advanced Lead Acid Batteries with Embedded Ultrasonics (Alab-EU), which will extend the lifespan of lead-acid batteries by up to 25 percent via “ultrasonification.”
In a statement sent to Inquirer Mobility, TIP’s Dr. Drandreb Earl O. Juanico, PhD, project leader for Nicer on Advanced Batteries, said: “Motolite is already manufacturing local lead acid batteries but mostly for cars. Lithium-ion batteries are mostly used in renewable energies and EVs because of its deep cycle capability. However, lithium-ions are imported batteries not common in the Philippines. With the Nicer-Joules program, developing alternative battery materials might serve as the opportunity to develop our own local batteries applicable to renewable energy and e-vehicles with the capability of prolonged life span and increased capacity.”
Inquirer Motoring asked local EV industry leaders about the feasibility of establishing local battery manufacturing facilities.
“There have been several (attempts at battery manufacturing) but they haven’t materialized due to the pending eV law which is now in the bicameral for finalization,” disclosed Ferdinand Raquelsantos, chair emeritus of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (eVAP) and president of Electric Vehicle Owners Society.
Edmund Araga, eVAP and Asian Federation of Electric Vehicles Association (Afeva) president, added, “EV battery development is still in the works. The Board of Investments is plotting a roadmap update, which includes battery manufacturing.”
Previous Nicer programs had already established 35 R&D centers spread out across 17 regions, with total funding of P1.7 billion. The R&D grants were provided to state and private universities, not only for upgrading facilities and human resource development, but also for regional economic development.
As a sub-program of the S4CP, Nicer serves to accelerate STI—science, technology, and innovation—and subsequently create massive investments in science and technology, human resource development, and R&D. The S4CP Bill is currently pending for approval in Congress.
Other funding programs under S4CP is the Collaborative R&D to Leverage the Philippine Economy (Cradle) Program which aims to enable technological advancement and innovation of local companies and to support the growth of the Philippine innovation ecosystem. Cradle encourages academe-industry partnerships to improve company products, processes, and services in order for these enterprises to become more competitive. The Business Innovation through S&T (BIST) for Industry aims to provide financial assistance to Filipino private companies for the acquisition of strategic and relevant technologies so they can undertake their own R&D. Another sub-program, the R&D Leadership Program (RDLead), aims to develop and strengthen research capabilities of the academe, R&D institutions (RDIs), and other government line agencies nationwide. To this end, RDLeaders who are local S&T experts with strong leadership and innovative policy proficiencies are engaged to train, direct and support their R&D goals.
“DOST envisioned S4CP to create opportunities in advancing STI in the country,” said DOST Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “The S4CP is a means to proportionately spread funding across all regions for capacity-building initiatives and securing partnerships across academia and industry members.”