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On electric vehicles not being the fix we need for transport

Much has been said and written about how electric vehicles could be the game changer for transport. Those include supportive material and also those that are more critical and provide different perspectives to EVs. Here is another article that discusses EVs in the context of the avoid, shift, improve framework:

O’Riordan, V. (November 30, 2021) “Electric vehicles aren’t a fix for carbon emissions. These 3 things need to change—fast,” Fast Company, https://www.fastcompany.com/90700832/electric-vehicles-arent-a-fix-for-carbon-emissions-these-3-things-need-to-change-fast [Last accessed: 12/17/2021]

There’s a recent article about the environmental impacts of manufacturing EVs including the batteries used by these vehicles. I will share that in another post.

On e-scooters

One of the so-called new mobility modes is the e-scooter. It is categorized as a micro mobility mode and in appearance is no different from a kick scooter with the difference lies in the former being motorized. Not all are powered by electric motors as I’ve seen ones that are gas-powered (small internal combustion engines). The latter are noisy and have emissions but seem to be more powerful especially when encountering inclined road sections (e.g., going up to Ortigas Center from C5, going up to Antipolo). Some seem to be customized for more power as I’ve seen motorcycle shops doing what looks like modifications and not just repairs.

A typical e-scooter

I’m sharing an article below about e-scooters and their involvement in road crashes in Europe:

Meaker, M. (December 7, 2021) “E-scooters are everywhere in Europe. So are grisly accidents,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/escooters-accidents-europe/?bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&esrc=AUTO_OTHER&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_DAILY_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_content=WIR_Daily_120721&utm_mailing=WIR_Daily_120721&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=P4 [Last accessed: 12/9/2021]

I think the proverbial jury is still out there in as far as these vehicles are concerned. Safety-wise, there should be concern if users speed up and zig-zag through traffic. These are the same concerns in the European cities mentioned in the article. Personally, I don’t see these vehicles gaining as much popularity for typical commutes compared to the bicycle, which has seen a surge in use during this pandemic and with bike lanes (pop-up and permanent) in place in many areas. These same bike lanes are now also being shared by these e-scooters. I think more people will opt for the motorcycle, which comes in different sizes and engines, and which provides more in terms of versatility of use. But again, there are risks involved here and perhaps some e-scooter users are mimicking the undesirable, risky motorcycle rider behavior. Are they e-scooter users to be regarded and treated as drivers or riders considering they are using motorized vehicles? Perhaps the government should be working on this and other relevant, current policy (if not regulations) to e-scooter use.

On ‘electric cars’ still being ‘cars’

With the current climate talks in the background, there is also a parallel discussion on the impacts of electric vehicles and self-driving cars. Will they help solve our transport or traffic problems? Perhaps e-cars will contribute to the reduction of emissions and greenhouse gases. Perhaps they can also help in reducing dependence on fossil fuels. But can they alleviate congestion? Or will they just promote more car-dependence? Here’s a nice article from early this year that discusses the “big problem” with electric cars:

I also read another article about the issues concerning the batteries (e.g., lithium batteries) used by these e-vehicles. We are only beginning to see how difficult it is to deal with the waste of used batteries not just from e-vehicles but from other sources as well. Renewables like solar, for example, requires batteries for storage. These are issues that need to be addressed ASAP. Otherwise, it will be a losing proposition for people in general as they end up with modes of transport that are not sustainable for the future. Perhaps we can just walk or bike?

On electric vehicles in the Philippines – current situation and prospects

Here’s a quick share of an article on electric vehicles in the Philippines:

Fernandez, H.A. (September 7, 2021) “Electric vehicles in the Philippines: a mottled green solution,” Eco-Business, https://www.eco-business.com/news/electric-vehicles-in-the-philippines-a-mottled-green-solution/ [Last accessed: 9/8/2021]

An e-vehicle at a charging station at the University of the Philippines Diliman

It is interesting that the article cites past studies that covered not just e-vehicles but the bigger picture for transport. I think most if not all people who were doing work on low carbon transport including the modeling of scenarios for the long term were not able to anticipate something like Covid-19 disrupting activities around the world and curbing emissions so drastically in the last year. The so-called ‘old normal’ situation has not returned but some say that even with the pandemic affecting transport, we still won’t be able to attain the targets necessary to stave off global warming. The bottomline is that we need more aggressive actions and probably, shifting to e-vehicles is one of those that combined with others will help achieve targets.

On defining the 15-minute city

I have shared articles and briefly written about the concept of the 15-minute city on this blog. Here is another discussing how a 15-minute city is defined:

(February 8, 2021) “Defining the 15-minute city,” Public Square, https://www.cnu.org/publicsquare/2021/02/08/defining-15-minute-city [Last accessed: 8/10/2021]

Here is an image from the article:

Again, it is important to contextualize these concepts. I share these as references and topics for discussion. Of course, I have my own opinions about this and I have written about those in previous posts. I guess in the Philippine context, we can include the pedicab or non-motorized three-wheelers in the discussion. These are also very popular modes in many cities and municipalities despite their being also prohibited along national roads like their motorized counterparts. It would be nice to have more visuals in the form of maps that show travel times for essential destinations or places like hospitals, markets, grocery stores, workplaces and, of course, homes. I assume there is at least someone, somewhere who perhaps have made multi-layer maps of this sort and attempted to related them along the lines of this concept of a 15-minute city (or perhaps the even older “compact cities”).

Article on the new mobilities

Here’s a quick share of an article on what is described as the new mobilities:

Litman, T. [June 30, 2021] “Planning for New Mobilities: Preparing for Innovative Transportation Technologies and Services,” Planetizen.com, https://bit.ly/2U99Hlw [Last accessed: 7/3/2021]

What exactly are these new mobilities? To quote from the article:

“New Mobilities

  1. Active Travel and Micromobilities. Walking, bicycling, and variations, including small, lower-speed motorized vehicles such as electric scooters, bikes, and cargo bikes.
  2. Vehicle Sharing. Convenient and affordable bicycle, scooter, and automobile rental services.
  3. Ridehailing and Microtransit. Mobility services that transport individuals and small groups.
  4. Electric Vehicles. Battery-powered scooters, bikes, cars, trucks, and buses.
  5. Autonomous Vehicles. Vehicles that can operate without a human driver.
  6. Public Transport Innovations. Innovations that improve transit travel convenience, comfort, safety, and speed.
  7. Mobility as a Service (MaaS). Navigation and transport payment apps that integrate multiple modes.
  8. Telework. Telecommunications that substitutes for physical travel.
  9. Tunnel Roads and Pneumatic Tube Transport. New high-speed transport networks.
  10. Aviation Innovation. Air taxis, drones, and supersonic jets.
  11. Mobility Prioritization. Pricing systems and incentives that favor higher-value trips and more efficient modes.
  12. Logistics Management. Integrated freight delivery services.”
Cyclist along Circumferential Road 6 carrying a washing machine

On personal mobility devices (PMD)

Personal mobility devices (PMD) are in the news now as the Land Transportation Office (LTO) issued a statement calling for their users to be required to get a license. Apparently, the agency is interpreting the law for people operating motor vehicles as something that extends to users of all powered vehicles. This may be an example of the law not being apt or suitable for the times and not considering the specifications or operating characteristics of these vehicles. Thus, this issue emphasizes the need to update policies and regulations and perhaps re-formulate them to be less car-oriented or biased vs. active transport as well as this emergence of PMDs as another mode choice for travelers.

I took the following photos while conversing with one of the project research staff at our center who uses an electric PMD for his commute between UP and his home in the Cubao district. He related that he alternates between this and his motorcycle. When asked if he felt safe using the PMD, he said it was the same as when he rides a motorcycle as he also wears a helmet and protective pads when using the PMD.

I’ve seen a few PMD users along my commute and for most I thought they practiced safe riding. There were some though who seem to fancy themselves as stunt riders. These are the ones who endanger not only themselves but other road users with their reckless behavior on the roads. They are not different from other so-called “kamote” drivers or riders (with all due respect to the kamote or sweet potato). Like any road user, these should also be apprehended and penalized for unsafe behavior that endangers others.

On the safety of e-scooters

There’s recent news about the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launching a smart scooter system in Cauayan City, Isabela. This should be considered a positive thing in light of the scooter’s sudden popularity as a mode of transport. There are, however, much to be determined in terms of this vehicle being a safe mode of transport. Singapore, for example, has released guidelines for its use in its streets while there have been mixed reactions among American cities on how these vehicles should share spaces with other modes including walking and cycling. Here is a nice article about scooter safety that should point the way towards how we should go about in assessing safety:

Chang, A.Y.J. (2020) Demistifying e-scooter safety one step at a time, https://medium.com/@annieyjchang/demystifying-e-scooter-safety-one-step-at-a-time-956afcf12d75 [Last accessed: February 3, 2020]

As a parting shot in other cases, I have always asked: Would this have been an issue or a popular mode if we had good public transportation as well as decent pedestrian and cycling infrastructure? The answer could be a simple ‘no’ for our case in the Philippines where much is to be desired in terms of PT, pedestrian and cycling infra. But e-scooters seem to have attractive quite a few in developed cities including those with good PT, pedestrian and cycling infra. The jury is still out there if this was just a fad or perhaps, as some claim, part of the evolution for improved mobility.

National Transport Policy is out!

The National Transport Policy is out and there’s a lot of buzz about the wording of the policy. NEDA released the following infographics on their official Facebook page:

Definition of what the policy is about

Hierarchy of transport modes (note the emphasis on walking and cycling)

Checklist for programs and projects: I am already anticipating what proponents will be writing to justify projects according to this checklist.

I will reserve my commentaries for future blogs. There is really a lot to discuss about this policy and how it will implemented (properly or improperly), There are lots of different ideas, advocacies, interests and agendas on transportation that come into play here. And we can only hope that the policy and its implementing rules and regulations will be clear enough (not vague as to have so many loopholes) for this policy to effect transformation and inclusive and sustainable development.

New publication on urban transport by ITDP and UC-Davis

There is a new publication on urban transportation from Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and the University of California-Davis. The link may be found here:

Three Revolutions in Urban Transportation

The content reminded me of similar exercise we did back in 2013-2014 for ASEAN where we did visioning and simulations for low carbon transport in the region by 2050. Electrification was a major assumption for the Philippine case as electric vehicles were gaining ground (they seem to be in a limbo now) back then and on the verge of a breakthrough. Not yet evident for the Philippines was the eventual rise of sharing, and though the idea is out there, automation seems to be too high tech for the country (even Metro Manila) for now.