“The future is electric”.
We’ve heard this one too many times already, and vehicle manufacturers have taken to producing electric vehicles to address climate change and sustainable energy. In recent years, a lot of talks have gone back and forth regarding the viability of EV use in the Philippines. From zero-taxation to building charging infrastructure, there’s a lot in the pipe. But there seems to be a problem.
In other countries where EVs have seen a lot of use (and sales), cases of cars spontaneously catching fire have become a major concern. Yes, spontaneously, AKA, for no apparent reason. As the Philippines struggles to create a niche for electric vehicles, this does not bode well. How does Congress address this? They’re not planning to ban EVs, that much is apparent. What they want to ban is the parking of EVs in enclosed spaces.
According to House Bill (HB) 6541, author Rep. Florida P. Robes states that “policies must be established to protect car owners and the general public against undue harm and damages caused by unexplained combustion of electric vehicles”. While there are no stringent measures for vehicle battery testing, what the bill provides is the prohibition of parking EVs in enclosed parking spaces. “Enclosed parking spaces” are defined as “any space devoted for the parking of vehicles that is walled and covered by a roof”. Ultimately, “the owner, driver or anyone who operates an electric vehicle shall not park the same in an enclosed parking space and shall only use open parking spaces.
So how is this a problem? First of all, the Philippines is a tropical country. Sure, we have our fair share of cyclones and storms in a year, but for the most part, temperatures can get really hot during the summer.
This leads to our next point: where there’s (a lot of) heat, fire won’t be too far behind. Maybe we should first find something more conclusive as to what causes these EV fires. Think about it, if you leave an EV with a potentially faulty battery that runs too hot out and under the sun, chances of it going ka-boom or bursting into flames get higher.
Second, what about cases of car theft? EVs aren’t cheap, and with these cars looking better and priced even higher, the concern for safety with regard to securing property comes into play. Third, how does the bill fit in with those who live in both private subdivisions or in open neighborhoods? Are they then mandated to simply leave their cars out on the curb?
Some villages have rules about sidewalk parking, and open neighborhoods even more so. “No fire? Great! Okay, my car got towed. Bummer.” Better than getting fined not more than PHP 50,000 and getting my license revoked, right? Yes, those are the penalties for parking in enclosed spaces. There goes using your EV to go to the malls, hospitals, and other places, right?
While there is no undermining the intention to keep people and properties safe, we also have to look at the bigger picture here. The entry and proliferation of EVs in the country is one step closer to overall progress and saving the environment. But the filing of this bill now comes to question the basic usability of an EV in the country. You can’t park it inside your own house, you can’t use it to go to places with no open parking spaces, and by complying, other concerns for security then come into play.
Maybe going back to the drawing board can add better, wider-spread provisions and inclusions for HB 6541. Right now, anyone’s hopes for the greater benefits of going electric might’ve been cut clean off. Until then, go get your umbrellas and iced drinks handy, it’s just going to be another long waiting game for everyone. Maybe you can stay in the garage with your non-electric cars too, while you're at it.