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GONE ARE the days we’d look longingly across the ocean and wonder when electrified vehicles would make their way here.
A growing number of makes and models — from conventional and plug-in hybrids to full electrics — are already in showrooms near you. Thankfully, government and legislators have taken notice, thanks in no small part to the lobbying and earnest work of entities like the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines. And while we are still in relatively early stages of our mobility’s electrification compared to more affluent neighbor states, the EV ball has long started to roll.
Of course, we know what can imbue this ball further velocity and momentum, right? Yup, that would be a network of EV chargers to further assuage owners and fence-sitters that their electric car won’t be stranded in the middle of nowhere with zero charge. Establishing a meaningful charging network will do for EVs what cell sites did to mobile phones.
As it is, making the literal and figurative switch to electric isn’t as unpalatable (or sweaty-palm-inducing) as before. Peter Wilson listed four other “roadblocks” to EV adoption: range, performance, cost, and choice. More importantly, Mr. Wilson explained that contemporary times have seen the mitigation of these hurdles. With increased battery capacity and technology, EV range is up to more than 400 kilometers per full charge; modern EVs are more fun (and easier) to drive; acquisition costs (with the aid of tax relief and such) are going down; and, as mentioned, more brands are offering electrified options.
Peter Wilson is CEO of Solarius EV Charging, a new sibling company of Solarius Energy. The latter has been operating in the country for six years, establishing industrial, commercial, and residential solar installations throughout Luzon. “We have an opportunity here with the shift to electric vehicles to extend our impact,” declared the executive. “Either we wait for someone to build the (EV) infrastructure or we do it ourselves.”
Solarius EV Charging is obviously choosing the latter. “We’ve put a business model where the location partners, like Fairmont and Raffles, can put the chargers in their premises and get revenue for the charging. You don’t get petrol and diesel for free, so when you charge an electric car it shouldn’t be for free either,” he said.
But for Mr. Wilson, the biggest hurdle remains to be the aforementioned lack of charging facilities. “Where am I going to charge, will it be convenient, will it take 10 hours?” he averred.
The good news is that, based on a survey of EV owners, 80% to 90% of charging takes place when the car’s parked at home anyway, which basically softens (and not precludes) the need for a network of chargers. An additional benefit: “Because you’re charging at home, you have the option of charging your car with solar panels.” Owners need not tap into the electricity grid (which, in effect, means that the energy supplied to the car comes from traditional coal-fired plants).
Still, it will not hurt in the least to have charging points available that will basically serve as range extenders. Speaking at the Raffles and Fairmont Hotel Makati, the company’s first location partner, Mr. Wilson said that Solarius targets to have 60 locations “energized by end of Q1 2023, 180 locations by the end of 2023, and more than 500 locations by 2025.”
Responding to a question from “Velocity,” Mr. Wilson said that since the company started rolling out its chargers in October, six locations are now online. In terms of the absolute number of charging points, this will ultimately depend on the need, and may be scaled up as necessary. At the Raffles and Fairmont, there are currently three charging points. Location partners do not have to shell out capitalization on the charging equipment. Solarius will be responsible for installing and managing them, and will remunerate the establishment with the cost of electricity plus 10%.
For users, it’s a simple matter of “scan, pay, and charge.” Through an app, the customer can pay using a credit card, Apple Pay, Google Pay, voucher codes, and other means. Prepaid plans are also available — topped up through GCash, PayMaya, and Western Union.
And while the company specializes in solar panels, it will not be realistic or feasible to deploy these to all (or even many) host locations. Hotels, resorts, and other public destinations will necessitate tapping into the grid. This also enables the customers to charge at night. “We’re thus relying on the grid to clean up its act,” continued Mr. Wilson. Residential homes are where Solarius can more logically offer so-called “sun-to-wheels” solutions. The executive said that EV charging points can certainly be offered to condominium and apartment property companies.
The secret to responsible charging, he said, is “ABC” — “always be charging.” Trickle charging should be the norm, rather than the higher-capacity DC chargers, which cannot be used very often because these actually stress the battery. With regard to cost, Solarius gives us the following estimate: P2 per kWh (using pure solar energy during the day) for a private home or office, P6 per kWh for nighttime charging via solar, P12 to P18 per kWh for a multi-tenant residence using Solarius EV Charging, and P35 per kWh when tapped into the grid.
Mr. Wilson concluded by inviting resorts, condominium property managers, shopping malls, and public parking garages to contact the company through firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 882-2125 and join its charging network that should further us along on our journey to electrified mobility.