It is heartwarming to see, that among all countries worldwide, the Philippines are one of the first which decided to walk the talk and fight global warming by introducing an entirely electric transportation system powered by clean energy. While other countries, especially the Western countries are still talking, Asia is developing to become the new epi-centre of electric transportation.
Promoting electric mobility myself in Singapore, I followed with excitement the news about the approvals for the eJeepneys, the first electric vehicles made in Philippines ever granted a license plate by the Land Transportation Office, and I was curious about the further developments. This year in January in Hongkong, I had the great pleasure to attend Mr. Rommel Juan’s inspiring speech and great presentation at an electric vehicle conference and was like the others in the audience astonished about the fast pace of this zero emission transportation project. For sure, it is no easy feast to be a pioneer, introduce new technology and try to change the mindset of consumers for the better (ie. greener).
But it happened in Manila, and it can happen all over the Philippines. Zero emission transportation is no longer a mere wish but tangible and very colourful reality anybody can ride for free.
In 2009 in Singapore, we created a showcase for zero emission transportation and introduced the first electric scooters ever, the first dedicated charging points and the first solar powered charging stations. Our objective was to show the feasibility of the project, which was successful. Right now, the Singapore government is looking into setup of charging stations for electric vehicles during an electric mobility trial.
While we targeted Singaporean consumers with our electric scooters made in Germany, the eJeepney project takes a smarter approach. Introducing electric vehicles to private customers has many obstacles: the mindset of the consumer, the usually higher price and perceived lower performance of the vehicles, and the lack of sufficient charging infrastructure.
The eJeepney project makes more sense, because it starts with commercial applications like public transportation. Consumers can at zero risk gain positive experience with electric vehicles (even for free thanks to great green advertising of socially responsible companies!). They get used to the proven and reliable electric products and lose their fear of this “new” technology. Also fleet operators, can try these excellent means of transportation before they decide to them and cut
operational costs and reduce emissions, be it for inner city deliveries, postal services or school transports.
I am very excited to see how – after the public transportation and fleet managers adopted electric vehicles — consumers will get on board of private electric vehicles. This might happen via electric bicycle, motorcycle or car sharing schemes, until consumers are confident enough to own an electric vehicle.
One major problem, however, will be charging points to juice up the electric rides. Manila needs to have sufficient charging points to address range anxiety and flat batteries of users. As Dr. J.B. Manuel Briona, a research scientist at the center for engineering research and sustainable research at De La Salle University, tells the BusinessMirror in an interview, the lack of battery charging stations is also a major concern of eJeepneys. With more charging stations, operators would
seriously consider getting an eJeepney to their fleet, says Dr. Briona.
The setup of charging infrastructure in Manila or other electric mobility centers is easy and can be done fast. Infrastructure for charging is already in place. Virtually everywhere, sockets, lights, aircons or other power-supplied equipment can be found. However, the access to this “electron fuel” is limited.
I believe charging infrastructure needs to be an entirely open source, available at almost no cost to governments, companies and citizens, and it needs to be deployed on a larger scale before electric vehicles are introduced. Who would a petrol car without a petrol station around? Similarly, (almost) no one would an electric car if no charging spots are around. Over the last year, we worked on low-cost infrastructure which enabled the rollout of the charging infrastructure consumers are waiting for and which could be implemented in a fast, inexpensive and easy manner. We see huge potential for Manila.
Hopefully the Philippine government will continue to support this amazing attempt to introduce zero emission transportation to its citizens. After the very successful first start of the trial, there is no obstacle other than just getting it done. I am looking forward to see the project take off in other parts of Metro Manila and the provinces and enable the people to experience a pollution-free mode of public transport.
At my next visit in the Philippines, I hope more eJeepneys became the first choice of public transportation. So add color to the streets, especially green, and charge up your ride for a better world.