Are Filipinos Ready For The Electric Vehicle Lifestyle?
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Are Filipinos Ready For The Electric Vehicle Lifestyle?

We dive into the nitty-gritty of electric vehicle ownership.

At the 2019 Manila International Motor Show, Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI) unveiled two fully electric vehicles, namely, the Kona Electric small crossover and the Ioniq Electric, effectively beating Nissan Philippines Inc. (NPI) with a one-two punch by launching their own EVs a year ahead of the proposed 2020 launch of the Nissan Leaf. Before these fully-electric vehicles came into the scene, hybrids have already become a minority in the Philippine market. Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) has the efficient, albeit pricey Prius and Prius C, while Hyundai launched its own Ioniq hybrid vehicle a year ago, which is priced to sell at a just a little over P1.4 million.

Over the course of a few days though, I was thinking, given how aggressive HARI has pushed for the sale of electric vehicles in the Philippines, and considering that our infrastructure for electric vehicle ownership in the Philippines is anything but developed, are Filipino consumers ready to own an electric vehicle?

The Economic Outlook

2019 Hyundai Ioniq Exterior

Globally, hybrids already make up a rapidly growing chunk of automotive sales. According to the ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association), 606,210 hybrids were sold across Europe in 2018, which represents a 33% sales increase. Meanwhile, according to JATO, 1.261 million electric cars were sold across the globe in 2018, which represents a massive 74% sales increase. This is in part due to the gradual release of the entire line-up of the Tesla Model 3, which also took the title of being the world’s best-selling electric vehicle in 2018. While the American-made Tesla is the world’s best selling electric vehicle, China is actually the world’s largest electric vehicle market, where 769,000 electric vehicles made its way into the homes of Chinese families compared to 209,000 making its way into American households.

With all of that said, the global market is truly in the midst of an electric vehicle revolution. A country like the Philippines, whose economy is rapidly developing, are considered by car manufacturers as an opportunity for growth. Despite the automotive sales slump and reduced consumer spending in 2018, no thanks to high inflation and the implementation of the TRAIN law, the United Nations forecasts a 6.5% growth for the Philippine economy this year, driven by strong government spending and infrastructure investment. It is also forecasted by the IMF that the Philippines’ GDP will grow by 6.5% in 2019.

This is indeed good news for the Philippine economy, one that will mean a growth in consumption of goods and services in the country. Truly, there is room for electric cars to sell and proliferate in the Philippines, especially given the right price. However, there is one key problem that both the public and private sector must address first in order for electric cars to truly hit mainstream: the lack of charging infrastructure.

Charging An Electric Vehicle

As it stands, there are only a handful of charging stations across Manila, most notable of them being the two charging stations of UniOil along Congressional Avenue Extension in Quezon City and along the EDSA Guadalupe Northbound section. For people who live far from these two stations, their only option is to charge it at home.

2019 Nissan Leaf Exterior

For the Nissan Leaf, the included standard Level 1 charger can charge the vehicle from empty to full in about twenty hours. An optional Level 2 charger brings it down to about four to eight hours. A DC fast charging station, such as those that UniOil utilizes, can charge the Nissan Leaf from empty to full in just 30 minutes. Because the Hyundai Kona Electric has a bigger battery for a longer range, these charging times are slightly slower compared to the Nissan Leaf. Assuming that a DC fast charger is not available in your area, the only solution for consumers to charge their vehicles is by charging them overnight. With that in mind, out of town trips fo Baguio or Tagaytay must be well planned.

Additionally, the claimed or predicted range of electric vehicles are highly variable depending on outside temperature and driving style. A colder temperature will reduce range, while more exuberant drivers will drain the battery much faster than conservative drivers. This is where range anxiety comes into play. Driving to your destination in an electric vehicle is one thing, but worrying whether you will get stuck in the middle of nowhere without a charging station in sight another.

The Numbers

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Exterior

This brings us back to my original question. Are Filipinos ready for the electric vehicle lifestyle? That depends on who you ask. According to Numbeo, the typical Filipino travels on average around 11.77 kilometers in 53.81 minutes going to work or school, in which 43% of these commuters travel by personal car. Considering the trip to and from work or school, that doubles to 23.54 kilometers per day and 107.62 minutes (1 hour and 47.62 minutes). Given the data above, this translates to a measly average speed of 13.122 kilometers per hour (kph), no thanks to Manila’s gridlock traffic. So much for that 60 kph speed limited set by the MMDA, then.

Considering that electric vehicles typically have a typical range of 250 kilometers or less, the daily commute to work or school for Filipinos using an electric car is quite feasible, even without a public charging station. This is especially true for those who travel only within their local area. Now, if the daily commute involves trips that are more than a hundred kilometers from home, then careful planning must be needed in order for drivers not to be stranded due to the lack of charging infrastructure. In that case, an electric vehicle may just be a secondary car for the family.

Additionally, the data also includes annual COemissions per person per year, which stands at 1,833.20 kilograms. Going back to the aforementioned data, 43% of commuters travel by personal car, so just imagine how many tonnes of CO2 emissions will be reduced per year if just around a quarter of that 43% switches to fully electric vehicles.

Lastly, running costs, which includes maintenance and charging, must be considered. UniOil’s fast-charging stations are being offered for free, at least for now, but electric vehicles can also be charged at home, and from there, things can get a little complicated since this will directly be merged with your monthly electricity bill. As of March 2019, Meralco‘s rate stands at P10.4961 per kWh. Let’s use the Hyundai Ioniq Electric as an example since it is the most affordable electric vehicle currently on sale.

2019 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Exterior

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric has a 28 kWh battery pack, enabling it to have a maximum range of 200 kilometers in a single charge. Considering Meralco’s March 2019 rate, it is safe to assume then that fully charging the Hyundai Ioniq Electric will cost you P293.89, which is a lot less than gasoline or diesel. Additionally, electricity can be sourced in numerous ways. For instance, if a car’s home charger is linked to a solar panel, then electricity is effectively free.

At this point, we still have no data in terms of preventive maintenance schedules for the Hyundai Kona Electric and Hyundai Ioniq Electric, but it must be noted that because it does not have an internal combustion engine, electric vehicle maintenance is much simpler, since there are no engine oils, lubricants, belts, or spark plugs to speak of. Theoretically, this means that the maintenance cost should be less. However, the biggest expense for an electric car owner would be the replacement of its battery pack. For that, you have the manufacturer’s warranty to look forward to. For the US-market, federal regulations require that an electric vehicle’s battery pack must have warranty coverage for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. HARI, meanwhile, currently has a 5-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

Are Electric Cars For You?

To sum it all up, being an early adopter has both its advantages and disadvantages. Early adopters are the types of consumers who constantly seek to be at the forefront of technological innovation. Once electric vehicles finally gain momentum among consumers, it will be inevitable that both the public and private sector will eventually go hand in hand in developing the nation’s charging infrastructure, eventually putting electric vehicles into the mainstream market.

If you plan to use your electric car within your local city or town, then go ahead. Not only will it cost less in terms of fuel (or charging) expenses, but your daily driving range may be within a typical electric car’s range. If your daily drive involves regularly traveling up and down the expressway in long distances, then you might want to consider electric vehicles as a secondary vehicle.

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