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Much has been written about the government’s PUV (or jeepney?) modernization program so I wouldn’t really be reposting about these. Instead, I will be featuring some opinions, insights and observations about its implementation.
Following are photos of one e-jeepney model that the government appears to be promoting. This is the e-jeepney produced by Star8 that they claim to be have solar panels for charging while they are on the road. Of course, we know they are not wholly dependent on solar power and have to be charged the conventional way through an adaptor that’s plugged into a regular outlet. These e-jeepneys were supposed to supplement the reduced supply of public transport to mainly UP students, staff and faculty members when the i-ACT (Inter-Agency Committee on Traffic) conducted their “Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok” campaign in the UP Diliman area. First-hand reports revealed otherwise as the e-jeepneys spent more time on stand-by and just charging at one of the buildings on campus.
These are the same e-jeepneys that have been deployed and currently roaming around Tacloban City (promoting themselves?). The intent was for these to be the vehicles plying the new routes approved by the LTFRB/DOTr, which they claim was in response to the request made by Tacloban. The new routes though overlapped with many existing jeepney routes, clearly in violation of the general rule regarding overlapping routes, but allowed nonetheless by the regulating authority.
There are many allegations going around about e-jeepneys being forced upon operators and drivers given what has been regarded by progressive groups as unrealistic (read: unaffordable) financing schemes for the new vehicles. These are certainly not cheap, and double to triple the price of a ‘newer’ conventional jeepney. There are also suspicions about the strong motivation for the phaseout in favour of what are peddled as the successor (or replacement) to the jeepney. That includes a possible collusion among officials and the companies behind these vehicles and allegations (again) of some people likely gaining financially from the set-up. The DOTr and LTFRB PR machine, however, deny this and will gang up on anyone posting about this in their social media page.
I already featured a lot of the electric vehicle models that were on display at the 5th EV Summit and this second part adds to those in the Part 1. There are some new models in the following photos including a mini-bus model that features a lot of doors and a similarly-designed jitney model. I took photos of the interiors as well to give the reader an idea of the layout of these models and perhaps imagine how they could fit as potential public utility vehicles.
Electric minibus model
Interior of the minibus showing rows of seats
Driver and front seats
Rear seats facing the back instead of the front – the large window gives passengers a nice clear view of following vehicles, among others.
The minibus had many doors (8 total) to allow passengers to board and alight from each row.
Front of the mini-bus featuring a single large wiper
Jeepney-sized version of the minibus also featured multiple side doors (6 of them for this vehicle).
Seats inside the jitney
Dashboard and steering wheel of the electric jitney
Another look at the latest model of the electric jeepney
The door is at the curbside
Bench seat layout for the e-jeepney
Front view of the e-jeepney featuring a pronounced and familiar snout
Setting up for display and demo
Star8’s e-trike model featuring a side door instead of one at the rear
Bench seat layout for Star8’s e-trike
Dashboard and driver seat for the Star8 e-trike
Star8’s tuktuk design for the e-trike
The variety of electric vehicle models and the increase in the number of industry players is encouraging. Interest in electric vehicles have steadily increased over the past half decade. Perhaps the government should have a stronger role as catalyst or enabler for this industry to flourish and perhaps transform not only the public transport scene but also for people to adopt e-vehicles for private use. This can only be done if the proper incentives are in place that include policy, fiscal and financial instruments favoring electric vehicles as well as their hybrid relatives. These will go a long way towards a low carbon transport future for the country.
The 5th Electric Vehicle Summit was held last April 14-15, 2016 at the Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall. Following are photos I took at the summit where many current electric vehicle models were on display and demonstration. Many of the photos show variants of the electric tricycle designs from various manufacturers that conform with the design promoted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). These are basically in the form of the Thai tuktuk and similar to Cagayan De Oro’s motorella.
Go Electric e-trike by ToJo Motors
E-trike model by Clean Air Transport Solutions, Inc.
BEMAC e-trike model – the company recently landed a big contract to produce e-trikes.
E-trike by Kyto Green Technologies Co., Ltd.
Electric car (4-wheeler) by PhUV powered by Trojan batteries
E-trike model by Green Mobility Service
Exhibitors setting up their booths and electric vehicles
E-trikes by Guider Power
Another look at PhUV’s e-trikes
Electric motorcycles by Alternative Energy Trailblazer, Inc.
E-trike by Roteco
SunE-trike and Roteco booths at the summit exhibition area
The ToJo Motors booth
Electric vehicles powered by solar energy by Star8
E-vehicle models by Clean Air Transport Solutions, Inc.
To be continued…
I saw this electric tricycle while traveling along Marcos Highway in Antipolo City. There are already a number of e-trikes operating in many cities around the country including several in Metro Manila but this one seems to be the inferior to the designs I have features in previous articles in this site (Note: Refer to the post on Vehicles at the 3rd Electric Vehicle Summit for a sampling of e-trike designs). Those designs were mostly inspired by the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s concept electric tricycle design for their project that sought to replace conventional tricycles with electric ones.
This e-trike appears to be a clumsy design and I have questions regarding its stability and operating characteristics, which have implications on road safety. Note that the e-trike in the photo above is not registered. Otherwise, it should bear an orange plate from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), which incidentally classifies e-vehicles as low-speed vehicles. This classification basically restricts most e-vehicles from traveling along national roads such as Marcos Highway. Did Antipolo secure an exception or exemption for these vehicles? Are traffic law enforcement personnel turning blind eye to the operation of these vehicles along busy highways like Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway? How safe are these vehicle designs?
There have been a few setbacks for sustainable transport in the news recently and not so recently. One is the burning of an electric vehicle, a COMET to be precise, that saw one unit burn to the ground near the UP Town Center along Katipunan Avenue. I am not aware of any official or formal findings being released as to what really happened to the vehicle but that is basically a big PR problem now as detractors of e-vehicles will point to the incident as proof that e-vehicles still have a long way to becoming a viable and safe option as public utility vehicles. E-vehicles have a lot to prove especially as an option for public transport and such setbacks only strengthen the argument against them and leaves us with the current conventional options.
Another is the discontinuance of service inside the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) of hybrid buses operated by Green Frog Transport. This one is due to what Green Frog described as exorbitant fees being charged by Bonifacio Estates Services Corp (BESC) for their buses to enter BGC. This is making the rounds of social media but there seems to be no response from BESC nor from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), which is supposed to also have a say with policies in BGC. Perhaps BESC thought it best to just give Green Frog the silent treatment for what appears as a trial by publicity approach by Green Frog. One commuter commented that maybe BGC authorities should push for their Fort Buses to be hybrid and phase out the jeepneys in favour of higher capacity transit inside BGC.
There have also been issue on road safety including many incidents of pedestrians getting run over by vehicles. Many of these have been captured on video particularly by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which has set-up a network of cameras in many intersections along major roads. Many show vehicles Given that many cases feature jaywalking, it is still the responsibility of any motorist to exercise caution when manoeuvring, especially when turning at intersections. Drivers will always have blind sides or weak sides when they manoeuvre so they should be very careful when in doubt and not immediately proceed when it is not clear that they have a clear path. At BGC (again) one will notice that many motorists do not give way to pedestrians even when the latter are crossing at the right locations and according to the sign clearing them to cross the street. In one case involving two speeding SUVs, one lost control and hit a pregnant woman crossing the street. While a significant number of vehicles in BGC are through traffic, it is still the responsibility of BGC’s traffic enforcers to ensure motorists follow traffic rules and regulations including prioritising safety over haste. Simply attributing such safety issues to through traffic is no excuse for traffic enforcement being as lax as or par with the rest of Metro Manila, especially for a CBD that packages itself as better than the rest of Metro Manila.
There is a strong sentiment against electric jeepneys along the route where the COMET is currently operating. This opposition has always been there even before the COMET came about. I would like to think that this is partly due to the perception among many operators and drivers that conventional jeepneys would be phased out and replaced by e-jeepneys. But then isn’t this replacement supposed to be an upgrade in terms of having a more energy efficient and therefore economical vehicle that had a significant bonus of being low emission as well.
I finally got a photo of the sign Katipunan jeepney operators and drivers put up at the terminal below the Aurora Blvd. flyover.
Protest against electric jeepneys written on Manila paper and posted on overpass column at the Katipunan jeepney terminal
Given the recent innovations and the rapid advances in electric and other fuel vehicles, it should come as no surprise that more reliable and more efficient models of these vehicles will be available in the market. In the case of the Philippines where the thrust for e-vehicles is focused on public transport, there will eventually be a model that will comprehensively beat conventional jeepneys in every aspect. That is, if there is not yet a model that good. Arguably, the COMET and the latest e-jeepney model (BEEP) are already better than conventional jeepneys. However, their acceptability is pending with operators and drivers who seem uninterested with the case against conventional jeepneys. Perhaps these people are being fed false information by another party? Hopefully, they will open their eyes and mind to the reality that will eventually catch up with them if they do not embrace change.
Another vehicle being considered for the study on the comparison of customised vehicles being used for public transport is the COMET (City Optimised Managed Electric Transport). This is a 20-seater vehicle that we have written about in previous posts and was touted by its makers and supporters as the best and most suitable replacement for the conventional jeepney. Unlike the BEEP that was featured in the previous post, it is currently operating along a route with trip ends at North Avenue and Aurora Boulevard via Mindanao Avenue, Congressional Avenue, Luzon Avenue and Katipunan Avenue. This route overlaps in operation with established jeepney routes in those areas and thus competes directly with these jeepneys.
Notice that both the COMET and the BEEP have seating capacities of 20 passengers (except the driver). However, the COMET is the larger vehicle as it is both wider, longer and higher than the BEEP. In fact, a passenger can stand inside the COMET without having to bow his/her head so as not to bump against the ceiling. Perhaps the more significant difference with current operations is that COMET drivers have been trained to drive more responsibly (i.e., less aggressively) than the typical jeepney driver. So far they do not weave in traffic and stop only at designated points along their route. Future jeepneys should have drivers like these but they should also be compensated according to the requirements of their jobs as drivers. Such compensation schemes are among the biggest factors for the way jeepney drivers behave in traffic. Technology-wise, current and subsequent developments in motors, batteries and other components of the vehicle itself should make electric and other environment-friendly vehicles more attractive as replacements (successors?) to jeepneys.
The National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) is part of the Phase II of a research comparing the performances of customized local road vehicles (CLRV) for use in public transport. This project is being conducted together with the Vehicle Research and Testing Laboratory (VRTL) of UPD’s Department of Mechanical Engineering (DME), Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute (EEEI) and the National Engineering Center (NEC) with funding from the Department of Energy (DOE). Phase II considers a longer route for the comparison of vehicles. In the previous Phase I, the route was UP Diliman-North EDSA while in this phase, the route will be Lagro-Cubao, which is significantly longer in distance compared to the previous study route.
Here are the specs for the BEEP, which features some significant design changes from the earlier versions of the e-jeepney:
1. The door is already located on the side of the vehicle instead of at the back.
2. The motor is rated at 30kW, a significant upgrade from the 15- and 20kW motors in previous e-jeepneys.
3. The seating capacity is for 20 passengers (excluding the driver) by about 2 to 4 people from previous e-jeepney models.
These are the most obvious changes in the BEEP and would be factors that could affect its performance and acceptability. Most jeepneys these days are “siyaman” meaning they seat 9 passengers on each of the bench seats plus 2 on the front seat for a total of 20 passengers. Also, jeepneys should be able to negotiate steeper slopes that have been among the problems for e-jeepneys. Not mentioned are the specs of the batteries and the charging time although the range claimed for a full charge is 85 km. This study will hopefully validate these claims and show us if the BEEP will be up to the challenge of replacing the conventional jeepneys on long routes.
We were invited to the opening of an electric vehicle assembly plant in Cavite recently. BEMAC Electric Transportation Philippines, Inc. formally opened their plant last February 11 at the Almazora compound at the Golden Mile Business Park in Carmona, Cavite. We were very impressed at the plant and learned that BEMAC is partnering with Almazora, a local company specialised and experienced in vehicle body assembly. I am sharing photos I took of the plant so readers can have an appreciation of what an assembly plant looks like.
BEMAC’s e-tricycle model, the 68VM, has a comfortable seating capacity for 6 passengers at the back with the driver the sole occupant of the front seat.
Batteries by Toshiba Japan
E-trike body parts
Assembly area for the drives
Axles stacked and waiting for assembly
A closer look at the drive assembly
Assembly line showing e-trikes in various stages of assembly
Another look at the assembly line
Assembly line showing the chassis of the e-trike and the body being assembled.
A view of the assembly line from the rearE-vehicle intended for goods transport
A closer look at the initial stages of assembly showing the e-trike chassis and body frame
BEMAC’s e-trike model is the best we’ve seen so far among e-trike models in the Philippines. It is supposed to have been tested under various conditions except actual (or simulated) operations that are closer to real-world conditions (i.e., operation as conventional tricycles in the country). It is claimed to be capable of running at a top speed of 80 kph and its motor can power the vehicle up steep slopes, which is a typical feature in many municipalities and cities in the Philippines. Details for BEMAC Philippines may be found in their website.
There will be an Electric Vehicle Summit on February 26-27, 2015. The 4th Philippine EV Summit will again be held at the Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall in Ortigas, Pasig City. The two-day summit organised by the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP) in partnership with Meralco and the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) will feature an exhibit on the current electric vehicle models available in the Philippines, which I think is among if not the main highlight of the summit. There will also be several talks and panel discussions on e-vehicles including those on technology/R&D, industry, incentives and green communities. The program also mentions a lot about sustainable mobility, a term prolifically used by advocacy groups but not really one I’d attribute to e-vehicle proponents (One colleague made the observation before that not everyone is really into e-vehicles because of its environmental aspects.). I’m not sure all the top officials they invited will show up or give good talks. Past summits had good potentials as venues for serious discussions that could have led to fruitful outcomes. However, it seems that they fell short of these objectives and ended up with boring talks that to me often were reduced to lip service from government agencies especially on topics like incentives that will pave the way for the turning point for e-vehicles.
Hopefully, this year’s talks would be more interesting and engaging considering the plenary set-up where people farther from the front tend to have meetings and discussions of their own. E-vehicles have a great potential in improving air quality in a country like the Philippines. There is also the promise of less noise and, more important to many especially operators and drivers, better revenues than translate to increased incomes to those dependent on it for their livelihood. We look forward especially to the transformation of the tricycle sector from the current conventional trikes to the more modern and environment-friendly models such as those by BEMAC.
The COMET (City Optimized Managed Electric Transport) is a 20-seater vehicle designed along the lines of the jeepneys operating along many streets in Philippine cities and towns. More information on the vehicle, its operations and the organisation behind it may be found in their website. The COMET has been in experimental operation for a few weeks now but has been a rare sighting considering only 20 units are operating along a relatively long route that happens to be have congested sections depending on the time of day (e.g., Katipunan Ave. can be very congested during the day and Congressional Ave. is not necessarily a free flowing corridor given jeepney and tricycle operations along the road).
A good feature of the COMET is the GETPass, which is a card that is used to pay for fares. The card is something that should have been available many years ago and for use in most if not all transport modes (LRT, bus, jeepney, taxi, etc.). At present, it can be reloaded via COMET staff who are assigned to each vehicle or stationed at the designated stops. They help promote the transport as they sell the tap cards to passengers and other potential users of the mode. Here are photos showing the GETPass and the brochure that comes with it.
The GETPass card comes with a brochure on the COMET and how to use the card.
Basic information on the GETPass card.
Illustrative example of how to use the card.
The GETPass card
Instructions at the back of the card.
More information on Global Electric Transport.
Southbound designated stops for the COMET.
Northbound designated stops for the COMET.
Route map included with the tap card brochure.
The current experimental route of the COMET overlaps with several jeepney routes including Katipunan and Tandang Sora jeepneys. If the objective is simply to demonstrate vehicle performance (and reliability) using this route and with actual traffic conditions, then this would be a very fruitful exercise. However, more suitable routes should be considered for the COMET including possibly new routes like missionary routes or feeder routes that are not yet served by any formal public transport. This is one way for the COMET to be mainstreamed and for the low emission vehicle to have a significant impact on transport and environment. Another way that would certainly be the more challenging one is the prospect of the vehicle replacing conventional jeepneys along established routes. I say this is a challenge because there has been a need to retire or phase out conventional jeepneys in favor of higher capacity modes (i.e., bus) and the jeepney sector (operators and drivers) have always been somewhat averse to proposals modernizing jeepneys due in part to financial implications of transitioning to low emission options like the e-jeepney or the COMET. If these are not considered, the COMET will just be an additional vehicle along Metro Manila’s streets, contributing to the chaotic road public transport, and its hyped benefits will not be realised.
I do hope that the COMET will not be just another paratransit mode that is integrated with all the other land transport modes currently in operation throughout the country. I believe there is a big potential for the vehicle and similar other models like it for cities and towns that are not yet as highly urbanized as Metro Manila or perhaps Cebu. There are corridors or areas where buses are not or will not be viable within the foreseeable future (next 5 to 10 years?) given the demand for this period. These are where jeepneys thrive (assuming tricycle operations are restricted or strictly regulated) and where the COMET would be most suitable.