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Electric shuttles to replace Philippine jeepneys

Electric shuttles will soon replace Manila's iconic jeepneys, as one of the city's main forms of public transport. The diesel-powered jeepney is the Philippines’ most popular and inexpensive mode of public transport, but it has been contributing to pollution.

MANILA: Electric shuttles will soon replace Manila's iconic jeepneys, as one of the city's main forms of public transport.

The diesel-powered jeepney is the Philippines’ most popular and inexpensive mode of public transport. Some even call it the “king of the road”.

But the jeepney has also been contributing significantly to air and noise pollution.

The 20-seater electric-powered city shuttle is set to replace the smoke-belching post-war vehicles.

Called the COMET, the American-designed vehicle is distributed by Global Electric Transportation, a partnership of both American and Filipino private investors.

The company is hoping to roll out some 20,000 electric jeepneys over five years. It will replace some of the 55,000 diesel jeepneys in Metro Manila.

Sigfrido Tinga, president of Global Electric Transportation, said: "85 per cent of this Metro Manila pollution is vehicular.

“Just taking out the major part that's causing that pollution, which is the jeep, is going to be amazing.

“Electric vehicles are generally more expensive to acquire but are cheaper to operate so when you look at that, it makes sense to use electric vehicles for public transport rather than for private."

The electric jeepney can travel up to 100 kilometres a day, at a top speed of 60 kilometres per hour, on a four-hour electric charge.

Environmentalists said that each electric vehicle will significantly reduce annual carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

Renato Constantino, executive director of Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, said: “We don't see it, we inhale it. We definitely feel the effects of it in terms of local air pollution, pollution on the streets, and we also contribute in a big way to global climate change. Carbon dioxide is one of the leading causes of warming temperatures worldwide.”

Jeepney operators and drivers are excited to try the new shuttles. They said the vehicles will shield them from rising oil prices, and give them a better income.

Roberto Martin, president of Pasang Masda transport group, said: "The income of drivers is being affected by the prices of petroleum products like the diesel. This is the total solution for our problem - zero pollution, and based on a study, 50 per cent of the savings in diesel."

Future plans for the shuttle include making it run on solar power, as electricity prices continue to rise.  

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