It appears that Meralco is looking to take a big leap forward in helping make electric vehicles more viable in the Philippines... and it's not just because of infrastructure.
“We are now in the process of setting up our EV charging buisness,” said Mr. Raymond Ravelo, Meralco's vice president and head of the Strategy and Business Development Office, at the Nissan Futures forum happening right now in Singapore.
Meralco’s VP is part of a contingent of subject matter experts from Nissan and South East Asian-based organizations serving as panelists for the forum that aims to tackle the viability of future technologies in the region.
Currently, there is zero market penetration with regards to battery electric vehicles (BEV or EV) like the Nissan Leaf or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) like the Mitsubishi Outlander given that there is no infrastructure; specifically there are no charging stations at fuel stations.
An investment by Meralco into the EV charging business would represent a leap forward in terms of commercial viability of EVs and PHEVs in Metro Manila. This, combined with the reduced excise taxes on hybrids and zero excise taxes for full electric vehicles, would help in the adoption of EV technology.
Ravelo further elaborated that there is an economic barrier that needs to be bridged especially given the higher initial cost of an electric vehicle relative to a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle, the higher costs of electricity in the Philippines in general (about PhP 9.5 per kilowatt/hour), and the higher costs of greener forms of electricity like solar or geothermal (which is about PhP 20.6 per kilowatt/hour).
“The numbers are changing as we speak. The big draw for people for EVs beyond the high initial cost, are the lower operating expenses,” said Ravelo. “There's a 30% savings. With the new tax, the savings can go up to 50%.”
But what was more interesting is how Meralco's involvement in EVs could go beyond charging stations.
"We are currently developing the business, but as to what form it will take, we do not yet know." said Ravelo during a conversation. "We could even delve into EV manufacturing, depending on how everything goes."
EV manufacturing? Yes, Ravelo mentioned that Meralco's upcoming business unit, one that could be called M-Transport, could work on EV production, though probably for public transport. The Meralco executive elaborated that they would need certain strategic partnerships with car manufacturers for this idea of a Meralco-produced EV to bear fruit.
Back on the more immediate need for EV charging, Ravelo further explained that a large part of Meralco's strategy is catering towards PUV drivers and bus operators; organizations that were -surprisingly- eager at the concept of an electrified fleet.
“We are able to convince our drivers and operators to adopt EVs; we are talking about jeepneys, tricycles,” said Ravelo. The Meralco executive said that the fixed routes of PUVs means that they can position charging infrastructure more easily. Not only that; the system used by electric PUVs are simpler than the ones used by private vehicles.
“These may be the first to adopt because the charging infrastructure is simpler. We are able to go to these drivers and operators with a real case for electric vehicles,” said Ravelo.