Monday, December 28, 2009

Eco cars for the philippines - what will be successful

For reference here are 2 related posts

A Prius for the Philippines

Why Philippine Car companies are stupid

If you want to sell an electric or hybrid car or whatever eco friendly car in the Philippines you need to pass some criteria. I'll try to post my ideas from the perspective of a normal Filipino car user/buyer.

Lets look at the what I think the target market would be. I think the target market would be the mid to upper middle class like me. I'm a doctor. Any of the lower classes would not be able to afford  it. Either they use public transportation, motorcycles or at best they use > 10 year old second hand cars or locally assembled owner type jeeps.

Only the rich would dare buy an expensive car like the Prius just for its eco friendlyness because the Philippines is a poor country and we have our priorities. Save money over the environment, even if it just covers the short term.

As a member of the middle class, my goals are a balance between initial price of the car versus the money saved in daily operations. If I were say a taxi company or operating a jeepney, then my priorities would be different. In that case the balance would swing towards lower running costs since these types of vehicles have a hack of a lot more mileage per week than a private car. LNG and small diesel engines are currently used for taxis and jeepneys but there are a few electric jeepneys. But even for taxi and jeepney companies, a very very high initial price is not good because credit isnt easy here and a lot of businesses wont risk so much up front for a possible long term payoff. I'd say for a middle class person, around up to 25% more expensive than a comparable normal car would be the limit.

For a jeepney airconditioning is not needed but for a middle class person arriving at work all smelly and sweaty would not do your social and professional life any good. Also related to this is the looks of the car. It cant be too ugly. An ideal eco car would at least look decent, preferably it would not look any different from a regular car. Unfortunately a SUV variant of the eco car would be needed in the philippines because of the bad roads, the flooding and the extra cargo/passenger space which may be useful. But of course some people would be ok with a small 2 seater so there should be a variety of models available.

Maintenance would be a big issue too. For electric cars, lowering initial price and lowering servicing costs by using cheap lead acid batteries would be viable. Modular battery packs would be nice. You could buy a car then if you had extra cash, go for the li-ion battery pack as an extra. If you have to lose some options to lower the price like computer controlled battery charging, regenerative braking and automatic transmission then do it.

Performance on the road would not be too high a priority. Max speed of 110 kph and tepid acceleration would be acceptable if it would mean lower running costs. Compare this to the prius which has the acceleration of a V6 coupled with a high price. Range would depend on the consumer. For electric and hybrid electric vehicles, different battery packs should be available. I personally would be ok with < 50 km per charge.

Small diesel cars (say the size of a Vios or smaller) would be a hit in the Philippines. Low initial cost, readily available fuel and parts, mileage comparable to some other more expensive alternatives. Who cares about the CO2 and particulate emissions as long as the average Filipino saves money. Ok thats not the right attitude but the average filipino is poor and prioritizes budget over the environment.

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