By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The foray of the electric-jeepneys (e-jeepneys) in Makati and Bacolod has created not just a buzz, but an awareness that the actual use of a pollution-free public transport is possible. The ongoing test run is just the beginning.

This endeavor is a collaborative effort among three visionary groups.

The Philippine Utility Vehicle Inc. (PHUV Inc.), Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines’s (MVPMAP) business unit, assembles the e-jeepneys. The Green Renewable Independent Power Producer (GRIPP), with its Climate Friendly Cities (CFC) Project, is the initial market for the e-jeepneys. The DOEN Foundation, a Dutch organization that funds enterprising and sustainable ventures, is the financier.

But the pivotal role for this project to really takeoff is that of Local Government Units (LGUs).

GRIPP Project Director Yvonne Castro said they have eight units of e-jeepneys on the road already, six more are coming out in February, and six more by April this year.

“We will make sure there will be at least 50 units by the end of 2010,” Castro said.

An E-jeepney is sold to GRIPP at P600,000 per unit by PHUV. It would be distributed by GRIPP through LGUs.

PHUV already has memoranda of agreement to sell the vehicle to the LGUs of Makati, Puerto Princesa, Bacolod and Baguio. GRIPP is also hoping to partner with Pasay, Taguig, Marikina, Quezon City, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Iloilo cities.

The pilot test runs in Makati and Bacolod will ensure the technical, commercial, environmental, and social feasibility of the project.

PHUV Inc. President Ferdi Raquelsantos said the consortium has total committed investments of P350 million.

The consortium is composed of mostly MVPMAP members who share the same desire to do business with a cause. They are Autoliv Seatbelts, Glassworks, MD Juan, Manly Plastics, Nito Seiki, Sanoh Fulton, and Yazaki Torres.

MVPMAP is also now working to help make the project commercially viable and acceptable to the export market.

“There is also a big potential for exports,” Raquelsantos said.

While LGU beneficiaries and end users are expected to run the e-jeepneys only on either short, closed loops or experimental routes not currently serviced by the public utility jeepneys, Raquelsantos foresees e-jeepneys to serve the mobility requirement beyond these limited borders.

“The truth is our orders and inquiries are for large school campuses, resorts, golf and country clubs, villages, farm lands, theme parks, malls and even for mobile ads purposes. But we will prioritize the LGUs as we want to also disperse the technology to the countryside,” he said.

But the environmental benefits of the e-jeepney may be what would really make this PHUV project hot.

“It is very promising as it answers to environmental needs. It will continuously grow its market as people realize its benefits,” he said.

The assembly of e-jeepney will boost the capability of local auto parts manufacturers. Its formulated local content is around 80% already. But the consortium said that localizing the electric motor, which is imported from China, would spell a big difference for the project’s sustainability.

The Board of Investments (BOI) has thrown its support for the e-jeepney, having listed it in the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP). Being in the IPP entitles one to tax and fiscal incentives– income tax holiday and preferential duty on the importation of capital equipment.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) has just established a category for electric vehicle– LSV (Low Speed Vehicle) allowing PHUV to register the e-jeepneys and be issued with license plate.

The PHUV, however, has urged LGUs to grant its assistance to e-jeepneys through a special incentives package.

“We hope government could provide incentives like special parking for this special vehicle,” Raquelsantos said.

For now, local patronage of the e-jeepneys is the most that the e-jeepney assembler can hope for.

Aside from the environmental benefits, e-jeepneys will provide increased income to drivers.

Statistics shows that the gross amount of fares that a driver collects in a day is roughly P1,800 to P2,000.

From that, he spends at least P800 on diesel and pays the jeepney owner P400 to P500 average “boundary” or a day’s rent for the passenger jeepney.

On a good day, a driver may go home with P240. On a bad, he can turn out subsidizing the boundary fee.

With the e-jeepneys, the net take home pay of the driver is expected to increase two to three times because of reduced fuel expenses. The pilot tests of e-jeepneys in the various cities are expected to firm up the revenue projections.

If it becomes successful, the e-jeepneys may find its way throughout the country. There must be a way to make it viable because of its environmental benefits which brings the issue beyond mere profit.

It will even provide additional livelihood to over 50,000 direct workers dependent on the local parts making industry for survival.

E-jeepneys would fit the Philippines scenery and terrain. First, it would not let go of the iconic Philippine jeepney. It would still represent the popular local jeepneys– minus the smoke emission and air pollution.

The e-jeepney is powered by rechargeable batteries and could drive for 120 kilometers a day at a maximum speed of 40-kilometers per hour on an eight to 10-hour charge. Like most public jeeps, it can carry a maximum of 14 passengers including the driver.

The e-jeepney can then take on up to an incline with 20% grade and wade in flooded streets of up to one foot in water level. That is the advantage of the local design. The e-jeepney can take on local road conditions unique only to the Philippines.

Perhaps, the e-jeepney is the answer to the local parts industry’s search for a truly Pinoy vehicle.

It will complement MVPMAP’s other projects such as the PhUV (Philippine utility vehicle) itself, PUJ (public utility jeep) refleeting program, and the One-Brand Project.

“It proves that given the opportunity and the resources, the Pinoy can design and build a vehicle that is truly Filipino in character,” Raquelsantos said.

When the project soon shifts to full throttle, he said, “This we hope will make the Philippines the leader in the electric vehicle industry in this part of Asia.”

The LTO’s agreement to issue a license plate to the e-jeepney has enabled PHUV to begin the next phase of the program, the mass production of electric-powered jeepneys.

PHUV is now planning to include the smaller electric tricycles in its product lineup of locally-assembled electric vehicles.

“Available in three different body configurations, the e-trikes will be the clean alternative for mass transport in the countryside. We will soon submit a proposal to some LGUs and transport cooperatives for the e-trikes to replace the gasoline-powered tricycles in their localities as part of our comprehensive Climate Friendly Cities Program,” he added.

The e-jeepney costs P625,000, the e-trike, P250,000.

Aside from trying to mitigate climate change’s effects, the e-jeepney also helps ease solid waste management problems.

GRIPP’s initiative to initially field a few e-jeepney forms part of a program on sustainable transport, waste management, and renewable energy-based technologies.

Its other components are the establishment of a depot as a charging station and maintenance center for the fleet and a power plant consisting of a generator, a solid anaerobic biodigester and a gas engine from which electricity will be generated from organic wastes collected from the commercial food establishments and wet markets of the city.

The e-jeepneys will then go to an electric depot – an ‘alternative to the gas station’ – where their batteries will be recharged overnight for at least a period of eight hours.

This is GRIPP’s way of demonstrating that there are climate-friendly alternatives to the current polluting modes of public transportation in the country.

During the launch of the project, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay has expressed strong support for the promotion of this clean vehicle technology considering the volume of vehicles of around 777,000 during weekdays plying the Central Business District in Makati. These diesel-fed jeepneys contribute largely to the kind of air the city has.

“I believe the electric jeepney is an innovative way of addressing two major concerns of cities – pollution and waste management,” Binay said.

He said the city is moving toward creating a business climate that gives priority to clean air and quality of life along with attractive tax rates, infrastructure, and incentives.

“If we can further improve the air quality in the country’s financial district, then we are literally improving the climate for business, and more business translates into more revenues to fund our programs and innovations in education, health care, and social services,” he said.

Bacolod Mayor Evelio R. Leonardia noted that the coming of the e-jeepneys will project the city’s image for “openness to new ideas and economic dynamism” that will further enhance Bacolod’s image as the Most Business-Friendly City in the Visayas.

Nobel prize winning scientist Dr. Daniel Kammen said the Philippines’ e-jeepney project has the biggest impact on the transport industry in the future.

If the CFC Program is replicated in other mega cities, and vehicle sharing will be a norm in the Philippines, Kame said that the envisioned 80% reduction in carbon dioxide can be realized.


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