A family in Cavite province, which has been supplying metal parts and components to major Japanese brands, is now building its own vehicles—electric tricycles that are considered the future of public transportation.
KEA Industrial Corp., the company established by the late Edgardo Araga, is now being managed by his children—Katherine, Elvin and Edmund Araga, who represent the initials of the company.
KEA has more than 30 years of experience as a metal fabricator that supplies parts and components to car assemblers Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda Cars, Isuzu and Nissan as well as Yamaha and Honda motorcycles. Egardo established KEA in 1991 in Navotas City, but transferred the operation to Bacoor, Cavite in 2000.
The Araga children took on the challenge of sustaining the business after their father passed away last year. Eldest daughter Katherine manages the administrative side of the business, while Elvin, the middle child, is the company president.
Edmund, the youngest son, serves as the vice president for manufacturing and operations.
“Decision-making is always the most difficult especially if you are working with family. It was easier when Dad was alive. He weighed things, balanced them out and came up with a decision that is the best for the company and family,” Edmund says.
Edmund wants to fulfill his father’s dream of becoming known as an electric vehicle builder. “My Dad, before he died, told me to continue the e-trike business so the trikes these days will have a definite direction. He wanted to his e-trike to be known worldwide. We did researches on trends and decided on the e-trike. But we cannot afford the cost of production. So we sought assistance from the Board of Investments and applied under a pioneer status. We’re very thankful that our application was approved in 2012,” Edmund says.
In 2015, KEA started manufacturing e-trikes that are similar to the “tuktuks” of Thailand or conventional three-wheel trikes with the main load located at the rear. The company has built 60 units so far, with ten units owned and operated by KEA itself, plying the stretch of Bacoor Boulevard up to the city hall.
The ten units run on lithium-ion batteries which are more expensive than the lead acid batteries it used for the first batch of 50 units. These lithium-ion batteries are based on a “pay-per-use” agreement with Talino EV, an electric vehicle battery developer.
Compared to lead acid that runs 40 to 60 kilometers per full charging, lithium-ion can last up to 100 kilometers when fully charged. It also charges faster.
Five charging stations were put up near and along the boulevard where drivers of the e-trikes have easy access to charging or tapping-up charge.
The company donated a charging station near the city hall to the city government as a rendition of corporate service responsibility.
Living up to the wishes of his father, Edmund says KEA e-trike has recently drawn the interest of a French client and an official of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who was on a visit to the Philippines.
Visitors from Asean countries also complimented KEA’s design and its success with the local condition.
Edmund, however, says the hardest challenge with e-trike is letting people know and understand the technology.
“The biggest problem is educating people. We noticed the resistance from the conventional to the new technology. Pricing could be one of the deciding factors for this. There is no bank yet that is open to financing e-trikes. It is a hurdle that should be addressed as soon as possible. Of all the e-trikes we sold, those are upfront purchases,” he says.
“This is the reason why we continue to lobby for incentives for the e-vehicle industry,” Edmund says.
The government has recently agreed to exempt all e-vehicles from taxes and provide other peripheral perks.
However, the local e-vehicle sector considers these as token incentives, below what similar industries are getting from their own governments.
“But we are thankful for the assistance. This is now a good start for us,” says Edmund.
After considering the prohibitive price of owning an e-trike, KEA came up with a smaller e-trike variant where the load is parallel to the motorbike. Its design is the same as most tricycles.
Araga says the plan is to design new models that will fit the lifestyle or the type of business of the owners.
He says local government units and subdivisions are supportive of the advocacy to replace about 2 million conventional tricyles with e-trikes.
“We now have proof of concept, that this technology really works. It’s sustainable enough for short distances but we can work our way from there. Of the 2 million tricycles, we’re happy enough to be able to replace 30 percent,” says Edmund.
“Our capacity is not that much at the moment. But if demand goes up, we are prepared to take on the challenge. We have a property in Silang, Cavite that we bought for exactly the reason of expanding our e-trike manufacturing. We are willing to up the stakes and get more automation when needed,” he says.
Right now, e-trike manufacturing shares the company’s metal fabrication facility in Bacoor, Cavite with 111 employees.
Married with three kids, Edmund is an avid runner who joins marathons regularly. He is also an occasional golfer and a regular grocery guy.
“This is my bonding time with my son. I enjoy doing these menial job for my family as I enjoyed doing it with my mom when I was younger. There’s no bigger joy than to serve your family as I serve mine and the company Dad has built for us—his family,” says Edmund.
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