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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.
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?
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]
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.
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.