Electrification is ever-present in the industry, especially in other countries. There are quite a few small brands that are looking to make a name for themselves, but is the Philippines ready for these electric motorcycles?
A few bikes from the international markets are capable enough to be used on Philippine highways, especially the more powerful performance-oriented models. However, the current landscape of two or even three-wheeled mobility, maybe a little too young for now. As it stands, the e-bikes in the Philippines may not be used on expressways, and here are a few reasons why they can’t and shouldn’t be used until they can catch up.
First and foremost, there is a performance requirement for vehicles that are looking to get on the expressways. Standard gasoline-powered motorcycles are already being regulated with the 400cc law in place. While many people still think that the law is outdated, it holds a bit of logic behind it even if 300cc bikes are plenty capable to achieve highway speeds with a little overhead performance to do some overtaking.
At high rates of speed, highways tend to become dangerous for e-bikes. Because Philippine highways don’t have a dedicated lane for slower-moving vehicles and given the speed at which vehicles roll down these roads, e-bikes might become like sitting ducks compared to other cars that may be traveling at the maximum speed limit. The fastest you can go on a highway is 100 km/h, and then that varies depending on which section or which highway you find yourself on. There are speed limits of 60 km/h like on the Stage 3 Skyway, but after that section, you may end up back at 80 to 100 km/h once more.
For a lot of brands and companies, e-bikes have limited ranges of under 100 km or even less. Add to the fact that the projected ranges are often best-case scenarios, and you’ll be sorely limited as to how far you can travel on an electric bike. Practically speaking, if you go far on a highway, there’s a huge chance that you will run your battery dry given how you have to achieve your bike’s top speed and drain the battery quickly.
You can ask the LTO whether your e-bike or scooter will need to be registered, but not all battery-powered vehicles will get the green light for a certificate of registration or for use on public roads. So far, here are all the classifications that the LTO recognizes:
- L1a - e-Bikes with a top speed of 25kph (No registration)
- L1b - e-Bikes with a top speed between 26 and 50kph (No registration)
- L2a - 3-wheeled mopeds with a top speed of up to 25kph (No registration)
- L2b - 3-wheeled mopeds with a top speed between 26 and 50kph (License and registration)
- L3 - e-motorcycles with a top speed above 50kph (License and registration)
- L4 and L5 - e-bikes with sidecars and enclosed e-trikes with 26-50kph top speeds (License and registration)
- L6 and L7 - light e-quads and heavy e-quads with 26-50kph top speeds (License and registration)
L1a to L2a vehicles need no license or registration to operate, however, it is recommended that a bicycle helmet be worn at the L1a class and then a motorcycle helmet at the L1b class and above. L1a vehicles are only allowed on barangay roads, crossing national roads, and on bicycle lanes. Upgrade to an L1b or L2a-class e-bike or e-moped and you can stay on the outermost part of local roads, cross main thoroughfares and national highways.
The next big step will be the L2b category, as both a license and registration will be required. E-bikes with this kind of classification may use the outermost lane of local roads, barangay roads, and can cross main thoroughfares and national highways, but motorcycle helmets from this point onward are a standard requirement.
Thereafter L3 vehicles all the way up to L7 vehicles may be allowed on most roads, however, these vehicles are not allowed on limited-access expressways and tollways.
Most e-bikes are designed for short distances
Again, we’d like to stress that there are a number of capable e-motorcycles, trikes, and other electric two, three, or four-wheelers that are viable to use on the expressway, it’s just that they’re either unobtainable in the Philippine market, or they’re too expensive and obscure to consider.
That being said, the majority of e-bikes still being sold in the Philippines are city-oriented models at the moment. However, it seems that the e-mobility solutions in the motorcycle sector even in international markets are geared towards affordable and practical in-city trips. Thus, the use of tollways and expressways may be out of the question until the technology is adopted and matures to overtake gasoline-powered vehicles. Given the range, top speed, acceleration, and the general design of these e-bikes, they fill a more niche role when it comes to land transportation which doesn’t make them worse, but it does limit their use in the interest of safety.
Still, it’s not impossible for an e-vehicle to be allowed on tollways. There is a minimum power output that must be met in order for the vehicle to access expressways the way cars and 400cc motorcycles do. Before that can be done, however, both the regulatory boards and the available e-powered vehicles need an upgrade.