Monday, November 22, 2010

First Electric Vehicle Summit Ushers in New Era in RP Transportation

Even as thousands of cities nationwide celebrate clean air month, Metro Manila remains one of the most polluted in Asia.

Driven by the aim of convincing the transportation industry that clean, electric-powered vehicles are viable and commercially-competitive alternatives to internal combustion engine vehicles, top electric vehicle proponents will stage the 1st Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit to assess the country’s EV sector, the consumers’ readiness to adopt EV technology and to explore the best ways to develop the domestic EV industry.

The summit is slated from 23 to 24 November at the Meralco Multipurpose Hall in Pasig City.

“A switch to electric vehicles will significantly improve air quality in Philippine towns and cities, as electric vehicles have zero tail-pipe emissions. Electric motors are also much more efficient than internal combustion engines, generating less heat and providing more propulsion,” notes WWF Climate Change and Energy Programme Head Atty. Gia Ibay.

The summit is organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature, Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines, Partnership for Clean Air, Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, in cooperation with the Department of Transportation and Communication, Meralco and Motolite. Its theme is The Road Forward for the Electric Vehicle Industry in the Philippines.

Ferdinand Raquelsantos, President of PhUV Inc., the business arm of MVPMAP and a local assembler of electric jeepneys, says the summit theme summarizes the organizer’s goals. “The summit expects to be able to formulate a road map for the EV industry for at least the next five years. We have to be ready with the solutions to overcome the current technical hurdles and with the needed infrastructure to enable us to nurture the domestic EV market.”

A fleet of e-Jeepneys now ply Makati’s Green Routes under iCSC’s Climate friendly Cities Program, transporting office workers for free in Makati City, the country’s financial district, through the Legazpi and Salcedo Village routes. This makes the e-Jeepney probably the first EV to be used for mass transport applications not only in the Philippines but in Southeast Asia as well.

Further, the e-Jeepney “Puts into practice a sustainable transportation solution,” according to Nobel Prize winning scientist Dr. Daniel M. Kammen who reviewed a variety of low-carbon, sustainable energy technologies and practices featured in Discovery Channel’s Ecopolis, including the e-Jeepney. He indicated that the e-Jeepney would effectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% if everyone would take the public transport.

Research done for the summit indicates that there is now mounting international pressure on carmakers due to tighter legislations on carbon dioxide emissions. Thus, they are looking at full electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology to provide the answers.

This early, they are developing the infrastructure needed such as either battery swapping or charging stations in malls, supermarkets and private and public parking lots. The US currently has around 500 electric vehicle charging stations. This number is expected to increase up to 20,000 by 2012.

However, consumer adoption of the EV technology can be a problem. A study shows that EVs are more expensive than conventional cars, and many people are still not ready to pay more for a ‘green’ car. According to a recent Financial Times survey, 65% of Americans and 76% of Britons are not yet willing to pay more for an electric car above the price of a gasoline car.

Sales forecasts are therefore tempered. The global electric vehicle sales is predicted to grow to only 2.7 million cars by 2015, with around 885,000 located in North America and around 780,000 in Europe.

One point to be optimistic about is that EVs have an average efficiency of 80%, which is much better compared to conventional gasoline engines that can effectively use only about 15% of the fuel energy content, and diesel engines are not much better either as they can achieve efficiency of around 20%.

At the summit, the domestic scene will be tackled by resource persons such as Jose Maria Lorenzo Tan of WWF, Ferdi Raquelsantos of MVPMAP, Red Constantino of iCSC, Bert Fabian of CAI Asia Center, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn, Dr. Manny Biona of Don Bosco, Dr. Jose Regin Regidor of UP NCTS, DOTC Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan, DOTC Assistant Secretary George Esguerra, Jon Croeni of Eonlux Singapore and representatives from Motolite, the Board of Investments, the Department of Energy, the House Committee on Transportation and the Senate’s COMSTE.
Concludes Ibay, “Vehicles of the future must embrace efficiency by becoming lighter, more compact, aerodynamic and drawing power from cleaner technologies such as electricity. An industry shift will partially mitigate the effects of oil-based transport and will pave the way for a sustainable, clean-energy future for all.”
With the confluence of manufacturers, battery and other parts suppliers, NGOs, LGUs, the government led by DOTC, the academe, advocates of environmental protection, the private sector led by Motolite and Meralco Energy Inc. (a Meralco subsidiary), and various stakeholders within the EV industry, it seems likely that the domestic EV industry is set for a take-off.

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