How developers can fast track EV adoption

Published July 1, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Inigo Roces


Iñigo S. Roces

Earlier this year, SM Supermalls made waves by providing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in some of Manila’s favorite malls. By providing these charging stations, EV owners will, no doubt, be encouraged to patronize these malls knowing that their vehicle will be charged by the time they’re done with their shopping.

It’s a clever move that not only shows the developer’s awareness of the necessary shift to EVs to save the environment, but also a recognition of how developers can play a vital role in fast-tracking EV adoption. It’s also one example that other commercial developers like Ayala Corp., Megaworld, DMCI, Robinsons Land, and the like should start to follow.

Range Anxiety

Though already on sale for some years now, EVs have not exactly flown off dealer lots because of one thing: range anxiety. Range anxiety is the fear that the distance an electric vehicle can drive on one charge will not be enough to reach one’s destination.

Granted, many of these vehicles can easily reach 200-km in one full charge. Yet there are only a handful of operating charging stations in Metro Manila to top up with. Couple this with the long charging times required at home, multiple errands along the way, Pinoys’ heavy use of air conditioning, and the heavy traffic and such a long range may not seem like enough for most drivers. Unlike hybrids, EVs only have the battery to rely on. Once it’s fully discharged, the car cannot go any further. And it might require a costly tow to get the car back home to the charger.

Hub and spoke model

Large SM malls have already integrated public transport terminals and exchanges, making themselves default stops or destinations for buses, UV Express, and taxis. By offering charging stations in its facilities, SM is essentially turning its properties into hubs from which EV owners (the spokes) can travel to or from. This makes any SM property with a charging station the default destination for these owners, providing them with convenient places to stop to top up their batteries and extend their range.

For now, SM only has these charging stations in their malls in Metro Manila. Imagine if SM had one at each mall or property development in the country. Then, an EV owner would be able to drive from Manila to Baguio from their home, stopping to charge at SM Clark, and then on to SM Pines to charge up again, before heading to their accommodations in Baguio. The same can be done when heading South, starting from home, then a top up at SM Santa Rosa, and then once again at the destination, Hamilo Coast.

Subscription model

It’s an expensive undertaking for sure, yet it may reap rewards further down the line. If SM were to have a charging station at each property around the country, it is effectively creating its own charging network. Access to this charging network can be provided via a subscription model where owners simply pay a monthly fee and benefit from the convenience of charging from any SM-owned charging station. It’s quite similar to Tesla’s Supercharger network in the US. Yet, by contrast, SM provides retail options while customers wait for their vehicles to charge. It can even be bundled with benefits like SM Advantage Card points, perhaps a free game of bowling or round of ice skating, and the like.

Ball in developers’ court

Granted SM has taken one of the first steps to show its support for EVs, yet it’s not too late for other developers. Ayala Malls, Robinsons Malls, and Megaworld also have a number of properties in desirable locations. By providing charging stations in these out-of-town destinations, they make themselves default stops for EV owners.

It may not make financial sense now, but it will certainly pay dividends when the numbers of EVs increase. Pinoys are habit forming-creatures and building that habit in early EV adopters keen to drive their cars out of town builds the habit in their kids, who will have no other choice but EVs by the time they’re old enough to drive.

(Iñigo S. Roces is the Motoring Editor of Manila Bulletin)