Engineer and renewable energy advocate Ferdinand Raquelsantos has a long-standing love affair with electric vehicles. In 2007, the Philippine Utility Vehicles Inc. (PHUV), a company he co-founded with other Filipino vehicle parts manufacturers, built the first batch of electric jeepneys through the prodding of environmental group Greenpeace. They were able to register the said PUV and was later replicated in cities like Pasig and Muntinlupa.
Three years later, Raquelsantos, who also has a penchant for collecting vintage cars, decided to convert his 1976 Toyota Publica into an electric car. He thought the size of his Publica, said to be the smallest Toyota during the ‘60s to ‘70s, was perfect to be turned into an e-car.
There were, however, technical issues that needed sorting out, particularly with respect to connecting the shaft of the electric motor to the existing transmission. But the engineer and his team were able to solve the puzzle. The mechanics coined the term “Love-Joy,” said Raquelsantos, describing how two bushings were eventually connected.
He spent about P250,000 for the whole conversion at that time. They eventually ended up calling the car “Love-Joy,” and it became the first LTO-registered electric car and the first registered car conversion in 2010.
Raquelsantos’ electric Toyota Publica is designed just for short drives as it could only run about 100 kilometers per charge. So when he was invited to present at the Philippine Electrical Vehicle Summit the following year, he remembers having to stop by a gasoline station in Taguig for a good 30 minutes to recharge it.
“I live in Muntinlupa and the event was in Meralco [Ortigas], so medyo malayu-layo yun,” he recalls to ANCX. “Nakipag-chikahan lang ako sa mekaniko doon and had some snacks, pulled out my cord and plugged the battery there. The mechanic was amazed to see an electric car for the very first time.”
Man and car did make it to the exhibit on time, in case you’re curious.
PH made e-car
Raquelsantos is happy to share that he has been working on a homegrown electric car for quite some time now.
“The technology has improved a lot. We’re now using the lithium-ion batteries, which are very much lighter and have a longer range,” shares the engineer who has three decades of experience in the automotive industry. “What we’re making now can reach 300 km to 350 km per charge.” It may not be as good as Tesla, he says, but it sure is more affordable.
“It is designed for close proximity travel—say, for housewives who go to the grocery and bring the kids to school. Ako from Muntinlupa to Makati, that’s about 16 kilometers, so with a range of 250 km, one charge lasts me two weeks. Pero pag dito lang ako around Muntinlupa, the charge lasts for a month.” This makes the car very economical. He’s been driving the new e-car prototype for almost a year now.
It is comparable to a regular car, says Raquelsantos. The ride is so smooth and there’s no vibration, because there is no engine vibrating. It also doesn’t cause air pollution since it doesn’t use fuel. In traffic, when the car isn’t moving, it doesn’t consume energy. “Parang electric fan, in-off mo, nakahinto lang sya. When you turn it on at saka lang uli sya gagana,” he explains.
Normal charging of the car’s battery at home could take about six to eight hours. But if done in a charging station, which is offered in gasoline stations—other countries offer it in malls—it would only take about 15 to 20 minutes.
But can you drive it over flood? Wouldn’t you get electrocuted?
Raquelsantos says it has a fuse that cuts the power off when the temperature of the battery reaches maximum level. When it gets submerged in water more than a foot high, reaching the electric motor and the battery, the fuse will automatically cut off the power. “The electric motor, we call it the IP65, is water proof, so water doesn’t go in,” he says.
The e-car is so quiet that it’s possible for a pedestrian to not notice it in a parking lot. So as a safety feature, it beeps when you drive it at lower than 30 kilometers per hour.
The engineer says he can’t disclose the full details yet of this Pinoy innovation as they are still in the research and development stage. But he’s hoping to launch it within the year, once the manufacturer is ready for production.
Photos courtesy of Ferdinand Raquelsantos