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EV Market Profile: Philippines

by Stephen Fogel

The electric vehicle (EV) market in the Philippines is in its very early days. While there is a strong core of support for the growth of EVs in the country, from the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines and others, there are many obstacles to widespread adoption.

Electric vehicles have been driving around the Philippines since 2008. It all started with electric versions of Jeepneys, the unique, popular, and beloved public transit vehicles that look like military Jeeps stretched to buslike proportions.

Overcoming A Poor Charging Infrastructure

This is a major problem. Until there are plentiful places to charge an EV’s batteries, sales and usage will be very limited due to range anxiety. Most major EV manufacturers are unwilling to sell their vehicles in the Philippines until a robust charging system has been established.

There is some good news on this front. On October 5, 2017, Philippines-based company QEV signed an agreement with Shell of the Philippines to put up the first EV fast charging infrastructure network in the country.

The agreement covers an initial 100 EV chargers at Shell stations throughout the country, to be made by ABB, the Swiss technology company. These chargers will be powered by Aboitiz Power’s clean and renewable energy brand “Cleanergy.” This is a good start, but 100 chargers is not nearly enough.

Low Income Levels An Obstacle To Private EV Ownership

Because the Philippines per capita GDP in 2017 was just USD $3,022, cost is a major issue for the growth of personal EV ownership. This explains why the plan to electrify mass transit vehicles like the Jeepneys and other shuttle-type vehicles makes sense for this island nation.

Motorized tricycles, another popular form of public transportation, are also being electrified in increasing numbers. This is by far the largest segment of the EV market in the Philippines, with well over 30,000 units sold each year.

In a related development, QEV also plans to convert 50,000 Jeepneys to electric power over five years (10,000 Jeepneys per year). The Jeepneys’ dirty diesel engines will be removed, and replaced with electric motors and lithium-ion batteries.

Very Few EVs Are Available To Buy

The Genius EV is a small and inexpensive Philippines-developed EV that is currently being built to order. It seats five, has a range of 72 kilometers and a top speed of 64 kph. Charging time is 4-5 hours. The Genius EV is being marketed to local governments, for use as patrol cars or service vehicles. It can also be produced as a closed van, and used as a delivery vehicle.

The compact Chinese BYD e6 EV is also currently sold there as well. The e6 has an iron-phosphate battery with a claimed range of 300 km, and can fully charge in 2.5 hours with a fast charger.

New Government Policies Favor EV Growth

The Philippines Department of Transportation recently initiated its Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program. This requires that all modern PUVs must have either a Euro 4 compliant diesel engine or an electric motor. It will also remove old, worn-out, and unsafe Jeepneys from the roads, spurring the turnover of the PUV fleet.

Another major move forward is that EVs are now exempt from excise tax, while the excise tax on hybrids was cut in half. New EVs likely to be sold in the Philippines in the near future are the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-Miev. This could also spark the growth of a strong imported used-EV market, similar to what has happened in Ukraine.

Electricity Generation Sources In The Philippines:

Here is the breakdown of how electricity is produced in the Philippines:

  • Oil: 33%
  • Geothermal: 22%
  • Coal: 18%
  • Biomass: 13%
  • Natural Gas: 8%
  • Hydro: 5%
  • Biofuels: 1%
  • Wind & Solar: 0%

Fossil fuels add up to about 60% of the Philippines’ present electricity production. Projections for the near future (out to 2030) indicate that the usage of coal will greatly increase, to provide the additional electric output needed between now and then.

Even though the total of geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, and biofuels is currently around 40% of the current total, these renewable sources are not projected to increase by much, and so will represent a shrinking percentage as more and more coal is used. Wind and solar power do not even show up on the list. Unfortunately, the Philippines’ electricity supply is not very clean, and will be getting dirtier in the future. One positive sign is that the newly-announced QEV/Shell/Aboitiz EV charging network will use clean, renewable energy.

Many Challenges Face EVs In The Philippines

There are many issues that will need to be overcome, before EVs can become a larger part of the light vehicle market in the Philippines. These include:

  • Inadequate charging infrastructure
  • Dirty electricity generation sources
  • High EV prices

The good news for the Philippines is that the public transportation sector is leading the way, with strong and committed support from the highest levels of the government. Many of the worst-polluting vehicles are being removed from the roads, to be replaced by EVs and other clean power options.

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