Up the ‘King’
CALLED nostalgically as the ‘King of the Road,’ but to
many, the jeepney is more the scourge of the streets.
Bystanders check out the e-jeepney. [photo by Isa Lorenzo]
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complain of jeepneys that hog the roads and stall traffic by suddenly
stopping in the middle of a busy street to pick up passengers.
Even worse are the jeepneys that belch thick, black, acrid fumes
as they speed down the asphalt.
of this may soon change. An electric jeepney is being touted as
the first phase of an eco-friendly-cities campaign spearheaded
by Green and Renewable Independent Power Producers (GRIPP), a
consortium of environment organization Greenpeace and nongovernmental
organizations from Negros Occidental.
years ago, GRIPP thought of injecting a sustainable transport
component into its Climate Friendly Cities program, which aims
to try and develop an energy alternative to non-renewable resources
such as oil. GRIPP founder and Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner
Athena Ballesteros says they chose to develop jeepney with an
electric motor so that the country’s “most artistic, iconic, and
flamboyant” mode of transportation would at least be less of a
usually run on diesel, whose fumes are among the biggest contributors
to air pollution and global warming. Diesel fumes are also irritating
to the eyes, respiratory system, and the skin, according to health
experts. Diesel inhalation, meanwhile, can cause a variety of
ailments: headache, dizziness, drowsiness, incoordination, and
euphoria. It can also lead to pneumatitis, which can leave one
choking, coughing, wheezing; breathlessness, cyanosis, and fever
are other possible effects of diesel inhalation. Diesel is a possible
carcinogen as well.
comes the GRIPP jeepney, which is powered by 12 six-volt, deep-cycle
batteries. Its electric motor is similar to that of a big electric
fan, and it can travel for 120 kilometers on a single charge.
The e-jeepney has no emissions, and the motor automatically shuts
down when it comes to a stop, thus saving batteries.
prototype can be plugged into an ordinary socket, but the plan
is to have a biogas digester produce the electricity for e-jeepneys.
Thus, aside from helping facilitate the permits, franchising,
and comply with other government regulations in order to get the
e-jeepney on the road, a city that wants to try the e-jeepney
must also set aside land for a biogas digester, which will generate
electricity from biodegradable waste, as well as commit to a dedicated
waste collection system and waste segregation.
this way, Ballesteros says, the digester will also help cities
comply with the solid waste management law, which requires cities
to segregate trash. Ninety percent of cities across the country
have yet to follow this law, she says.
project was set to be launched in GRIPP’s home province of Negros
Occidental. But Ballesteros says that the city of Makati got wind
of it and “(in) a matter of two weeks, it was able to produce
the counterpart services and commitments.” Makati has 5,700 jeepneys,
which ply an average 20 to 30 kilometers every day. The city is
currently looking for a suitable location for the digester.
turned as the e-jeepney purred along Ayala Ave. during a brief
demonstration there recently. A friendly jeepney driver came over
to chat during a red light. After admiring the e-jeepney, the
first thing he wanted to know was what the e-jeepney ran on. The
he asked how long the batteries would last.
some driver’s groups are skeptic of the e-jeepney. Efren de Luna,
president of the Philippine Confederation of Drivers and Operators-Alliance
of Concerned Transport Organizations (PCDO-ACTO) doesn’t think
the e-jeepney would be able to climb uphill or cover long distances.
George San Mateo, spokesperson of the transport group Piston (United
Nationwide Association of Drivers and Operators), says that he
has heard the e-jeepney has yet to receive ISO certification,
and is thus not yet eligible for registration.
San Mateo admits that the rising diesel prices are eating into
jeepney drivers' profits. Each jeepney driver needs about 30 liters
of diesel a day. A single liter of diesel, which can power a jeepney
for up to eight kilometers, costs P33.50. An e-jeepney can travel
the same distance on just P13.33 worth of electricity, based on
power rates that will have drivers spending P150-P200 per charge.
though the e-jeepney was launched last July 4, it has yet to ply
a regular route, as the Land Transportation Office still has to
classify it. Once the e-jeepney is registered, a franchise will
have to be granted before it can take to the road. Another potential
roadblock to the e-jeepney’s widespread implementation is its
cost: a hefty P550,000, or more than three times that of a regular
jeepney. About 22 percent or P120,000 of the e-jeepney’s price
tag is actually tax levied by the customs bureau, which says the
e-jeepney is a luxury item.
is the problem if it's not a government-led initiative,” says
Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Jasper Inventor.
prototype, with a fiberglass roof and aluminum body, was imported
from China. The consortium has inked an agreement with the Motor
Vehicles Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines to
produce the e-jeepney locally. GRIPP hopes to have a Philippine-assembled
prototype in six months. But parts such as the motor, batteries,
and controller would still have to be imported, as there is yet
no local technological know-how needed to produce these parts.
plans to set up a cooperative, where jeepney drivers and operators
can apply for loans. The cooperative can also buy jeeps, subsidize
these, act as operators, or even use a financing scheme.
a Dutch foundation and entrepreneurial venture support organization,
has given 300,000 euros for a three-year pilot program, which
includes the first 50 jeepneys. GRIPP has three to five years
to show the e-jeepney project is sustainable and viable.
may depend partly on gaining the nod of jeepney drivers. Ballesteros
says the Makati government has facilitated two consultations with
drivers’ groups. “We want to involve them in the pilot testing
and get their comments, and make revisions based on their comments
on the e-jeeps,” she says.
is collaborating with experts from the University of the Philippines
to further study the technology being used, as well as the e-jeepney’s
social acceptability and health and the environment impacts. Eventually,
GRIPP hopes to replicate Nepal's success with the electric safa
tempo, a three-wheeled minibus. Nepal's initial fleet of eight
safa tempos grew to 600 in six years. But Ballesteros concedes,
“In three years, we'll be lucky if 10 percent of the jeepneys
in Makati and Negros are electric.”
for disciplining jeepney drivers, well, that’s another story.
— Isa Lorenzo