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Pollution-plagued Manila set to spark an electric transport revolution


Electric Vehicles in Philippines

A fleet of 30 eJeepneys operate in the Makati green route in the Philippine capital, Manila. Photograph: iCSC


Powered by article titled “Pollution-plagued Manila set to spark an electric transport revolution” was written by Aya Lowe in Manila, for on Thursday 17th July 2014 12.07 UTC

Every morning, millions of commuters battle it out on Manila’s roads and railways. The city of 12 million swells to 15 million during week days, forcing traffic speeds down to 5km per hour. During the rush hour, a 30-minute journey can take up to three hours.

In 2012, the Philippine capital’s economy lost about 2.4bn pesos a day (£32m) as a result of its traffic jams. At this rate, the country stands to lose up to P6bn a day by 2030, according to the Japanese International Corporation Agency (Jica), which has been trying to reduce this mammoth infrastructure problem.

It is not only time and money that are the issue. The millions of cars, buses, Jeepneys and motorised tricycles that crawl through the city’s arteries belch toxic black fumes into the atmosphere. Jica estimates that greenhouse gas emissions will rise to 5.72m tonnes a year by 2030, compared with 4.7m in 2012.

But all this is set to change. The president of the national Electric Vehicle Association, Rommel Juan, plans to have 1m electric vehicles on the road by 2020. With government backing and private-sector support, the Philippines could soon become a regional hub for electric public transportation.

The eJeepney is poised to replace its diesel-run counterpart. Developed by the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) and launched in 2007, the manufacturers of the eJeepney work with local firms who assemble the vehicles at low cost. The eJeepney’s holding bay and charging station are solar-powered.

A fleet of 30 ply the streets of Makati, an area of Manila, and a few more operate outside the metropolis. “However, this [number] is miniscule compared to the scale that is needed,” said Red Constantino, executive director of iCSC, who estimated that about 10,000 electric Jeepneys would be required to revolutionise the Philippine transport system.

Traffic Congestion in Philippines

Commuters battle to work on traffic-clogged roads. Photograph: Rolex Dela Pena/EPA

Constantino said the institute’s aim was to sell fleet operations: “You can introduce 20 eJeepneys in Manila, but if you do not replace the Jeepneys that ply the street, all you have is more traffic.”

Drivers of iCSC’s eJeepney fleets are salaried employees, whereas other drivers work under the boundary system, where vehicles are leased for a certain amount and drivers keep any additional cash they earn. “Under that system, everyone has an incentive to violate, stop and pick up passengers wherever they are,” Constantino said. “When we established our fleet, we do it in a salaried way. If they violate the rules they can be reprimanded, suspended or fired.”

The biggest obstacle to the expansion of the scheme is financing. “The eJeepneys have already been proven technically viable; it’s financing that is the challenge. Investors don’t have the money to pay 50% upfront and 50% two months on. The department of finance has to back this, banking institutions need to open lending windows,” Constantino said.

The company has been testing the scheme in Tacloban, a city devastated by typhoon Haiyan last year. “We’re setting up solarised sustainable transport facilities in Tacloban because the typhoon wiped out a huge section of the public transport in the city,” Constantino said. “It’s a place where we feel we can bring in not only a new idea, but a new ambition for a city to reboot and take a different pathway.” They hope to launch the scheme by the end of August.


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