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Charging away anxiety over electric vehicles

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Filipinos are receptive to the idea of purchasing vehicles running on electricity, even more so than their Southeast Asian peers. That’s one of the key findings of a study carried out by the business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan and commissioned by the Japanese automaker Nissan.

The study titled “Future of Electric Vehicles in Southeast Asia,” released in February of this year, found that 46% of the polled prospective car buyers in the Philippines, 44% in Thailand, and 41% in Indonesia are open to considering a purchase of an electric vehicle (EV). The respondents in these countries are, as the study put it, “the most eager to buy EVs.”

In the six Southeast Asian countries covered by the study, including the aforementioned three, plus Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam, 37% of prospective buyers are willing to purchase a vehicle powered by electricity.

These findings bode well for EVs, which are hailed for their environmental benefits and cost-saving potential, especially as batteries become cheaper. But the study also uncovered factors that may hinder the translation of the openneness to buying an EV into an actual purchase in the region.

“While there is significant demand potential for EVs, there are adoption barriers as well. Lack of requisite knowledge underlies the slow uptake of EVs in recent years,” the study said. “Customers are also unsure about the safety standards EVs adhere to,” it added.

But the barrier that 60% of the respondents consider to be a “very important” barrier is neither safety nor operating costs nor high purchase price. “Range anxiety is the main drawback for the adoption of EVs,” the study said. This is a worry over running out of power before reaching a destination or a charging station.

Range anxiety may be overblown, at least in the US, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Sante Fe Institute, a nonprofit research firm. “What we found was that 87% of vehicles on the road could be replaced by a low cost electric vehicle available today, even if there’s no possibility to recharge during the day,” Jessica Trancik, senior author of the study published in the journal Nature, was quoted as saying in a Washington Post report.

Prospective Filipino buyers of EVs vehicles can make a case for why the range anxiety they may be feeling is not overblown, based on a glaring reality: There aren’t a lot of charging stations around.

The government is doing something about it. In 2017, the Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said that an Ad-Hoc Technical Working Group (TWG) was laying the groundwork for the installation of e-vehicle charging stations. TWG was created by Mr. Cusi himself to find out how suitable gasoline stations are as charging areas for EVs. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced last month of this year its plan of setting up quick-charging stations at its offices in Cebu and Davao. It already has one at its office in Quezon City.

The private sector is also helping address the need for charging stations. Last year, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. signed an agreement with QEV Philippines Electromobility Solutions and Consulting Group, Inc., a local start-up, to install electric vehicle charging posts at its gasoline stations.

SM Supermalls inked a similar deal with QEV, allowing the joint venture between Filipino businessman Enrique M. Aboitiz and his Spanish business partner Enrique Bañuelos to install fast chargers made by ABB, a Swiss automation giant, at its malls.

“The installation of EV charging infrastructure will support the proliferation of the EV industry as well as aid QEV’s mission to reduce carbon emissions and make use of a more sustainable source of energy in order to have cleaner and greener cities,” QEV said in a statement. It may also help ease – or eliminate altogether – the range anxiety Filipinos may have over electric vehicles.