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Car guy Ferdi Raquelsantos shows how to reduce carbon footprint and get a lot of savings in electricity costs at the same time

Every life is unique. But when I say I haven’t met anyone quite like Ferdinand Raquelsantos, I mean it in two distinct ways. For one, Ferdi is a car guy through and through. For another, Ferdi isn’t your run-of-the-mill car guy. He’s cool, but not ICE cool.

Confused? Let me break it down. Ferdi is the current president of the Electric Vehicle Owners’ Society (eVOS) and chairman emeritus of the pioneering Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (eVAP). So, as one can glean from the company he keeps, Ferdi’s love for cars has crossed over from internal combustion engine (ICE) powered ones into EVs.

His keen interest and passion for EVs dates back to the days when electric-powered cars weren’t even mentioned in mainstream motoring then. I remember going to Ferdi’s house then nearly two decades ago and being amazed at his yellow 1976 Toyota Corolla Publica that he converted to run on pure electricity (and which he also proudly showed as the LTO’s first registered eV).

What was even more amazing then was that, around 15 years ago, he had also installed a 1-kw wind turbine and six solar panels (at 180 watts each panel) on his rooftop, which then powered many of his appliances. He recalled that the cost of installing solar panels were still sky-high, and that he eventually recouped his investments after 14 years.

Ferdi has since expanded the power generation capacity of his house in Muntinlupa, as his rooftop now has 48 solar panels of various capacities. The wind turbine, he said, complements his solar panels, since during the rainy season, with not much sunlight, there is, however, adequate wind gustiness above 24kph to produce power.

He saves P30K in electricity costs a month

He explained, “All the load—the main circuit breaker/panel board—is still connected to the grid, but I’m getting power from the harvest generated from the solar panels and wind turbine. Since I have excess harvest, with my net metering, I export the excess to the grid during daytime and I practically use it at night when there is no sun. I don’t need to have batteries to store power as I use the grid as storage of my excess harvest during daytime.”

An engineer by profession, Ferdi had been involved in the automobile business as early as 1979. But it was in the early 2000s when his interest in renewable energies began.

“I researched and understood the technology of solar panels and wind turbines. The frequent brown-outs and power shutdowns due to typhoons prompted me to install these gadgets on my house’s roof top. The business followed naturally. It was a struggle to sustain the business since 2007 due to the high cost of components for the solar and wind electric systems,” he recounted.

Fortunately, Ferdi said, the cost of the same system he uses in his home today has become 90-percent cheaper compared to when he started.

That’s great news for whoever wants to be power self-sufficient in their own households. Ferdi explains, “This means that whatever size you invest in the system, you get your money back in less than three years, and the panels are good for 25 years. It’s like investing and earning more than 9-percent per annum, for 25 years.”

Ferdi estimates that his rooftop setup saves him roughly about P30,000 in power bills. “My Meralco bill nowadays is at P900 per month.”

Ferdi’s rooftop setup

With Ferdi’s life pivoting to energy self-sufficiency, it wouldn’t be a surprise that his life choices would take greener turns. In 2006, Ferdi was involved in Greenpeace projects, which jump started his research and development on eVs. Eventually, he and his team found the ideal eV advocacy in the form of electric-powered public transport, specifically the e-Jeep or e-jeepneys.

With the stars aligning some more, Ferdi eventually started on a plant-based (meatless) diet two years ago. Admitting to some “cheat days”, Ferdi assured me that he was still on a meatless diet.

With that, Ferdi describes his lifestyle and livelihood as a “complete cycle” to minimize his personal carbon footprint.

Looking at the big picture, seeing how the global auto, power generation, and meat and livestock industries have become among the top contributors to greenhouse gases—the key ingredient to global warming—I tend to agree with Ferdi’s self-assessment.

I may have to give him a good ribbing on those cheat days, though.

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