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The coming EV revolution

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George S. Chua

George S. Chua

EV? Electric Vehicle! You may not be aware of it but if you play golf, chances are you already rode on an electric golf cart. Electric Vehicles are those that are completely powered by batteries. In the traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), the batteries are only used to start the engine which is then run by gasoline or diesel. There are also modern vehicles that make use of a combination of an internal combustion engine and an electric engine that runs on batteries. These vehicles are called hybrids and you don’t really need to plug it in to charge the batteries since it still has an internal combustion engine that charges the batteries in the system.

In the Philippines, EVs are still in the infancy stage because it is only now that the government and commuters are becoming aware of their advantages. The most obvious and important advantage is that there is not emission that causes air pollution. Since the EV is run on batteries, there is no fuel that is being combusted to create the polluting emission. Since these are no explosions of petroleum fuel to move the pistons that generate the power, EVs are also super quiet and have no vibration. EVs are also the fastest things on the road that would match or even exceed the acceleration of an ICE supercar! EVs would also be much cheaper to maintain since there are fewer moving parts, and there is no need for a regular “oil change.”

What then is the downside of EVs? Due to the additional costs of the batteries, which normally are lithium ion. The cost of an EV is as much as double that of a similar ICE vehicle. Another problem is that we don’t have charging stations readily available for EVs, unlike the typical gasoline stations for ICE vehicles. Both these problems are being resolved little by little by advances in battery technology. Not only are EV batteries becoming cheaper but also more efficient with ranges on one charge exceeding 500km, which is similar of better than what you would normally get on a full tank of gas or diesel. Another issue is the long charging time for these lithium ion batteries that could run into hours.

Nonetheless, the high costs of EVs are still a commercial issue that needs to be addressed. The ingenious solution is to sell the batteries separately from the EV itself and just charge the user for the use of the battery. To put things into perspective, the cost of charging a lithium ion battery compared to the cost of diesel fuel to run the same distance is at least 30% to as much as 50% cheaper! The long charging time compared to filling up your vehicle at the gas station is also being resolved by advances in quick charging of the lithium ion cells and even doing a battery swap.

There are those that will argue that EVs which need to get plugged into the grid for charging does not really help in reducing the air pollution since the power plants in the grid still primarily use coal and petroleum fuel. The obvious answer to this is that the source of power could come from renewable energy sources such as Solar and Wind. In addition, if EV batteries can be swapped, they can be charged only when there is Solar or Wind power being generated.

We are at the crossroads, and our government can initiate policies and incentives to tilt things in the favor of EVs, similar to what they did to promote the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. Perhaps if we all take into account a better air quality will less pollution that can be possible with EVs, we would have a better quality of life, improved health and a longer lifespan. The Philippines currently has an average lifespan of 69.3 years, which is the same as Indonesia with their problematic wildfires that causes catastrophic air pollution. In comparison, our neighboring ASEAN countries with less air pollution are able to live much longer lives, such as Malaysia with 75.3 years, Thailand with 75.5 years, Vietnam with 76.3 years and Singapore with 82.9 years! While there are other factors to be considered in having a longer lifespan, I am certain air pollution is not contributing to our longevity!

(Comments may be sent to georgechuaph@yahoo.com)

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