Guess who could become Electric Vehicle Champion of Asia

The streets of the Philippines swarm with motorised tricycles and smog-belching Jeepney’s jostling for road position, with outdated buses that smoke their way around the island nation’s capital of Manila, all contributing to the smog that often blocks out the sun for days. Now, a nation more famous for boxers and singers and beauty queens and First Lady’s shoe collection may start to make a name for itself in the world of renewable energy transportation as government support for NGO’s seek to replace the archaic and polluting public service vehicles with cleaner quieter electric models.

The changing face of Philippines transportation

The lack of centralised investment in the public transport system has created a burgeoning private response to the need for the rapidly expanding urban population to get from home to work everyday. Just like so many of their immediate neighbours, this has resulted in traffic mayhem and environmental concerns as they wrestle overcrowded roads and choking smog.

There isn’t any good news, either. The World Bank envisages urban populations, in a region that holds half of the world’s population, will increase by at least 61% over the next few decades. The lack of reliable public transportation systems and the middle class aspiration to own a personal car has led to a surge in private vehicle ownership, adding to the congestion and pollution which is reported to have killed some two million people in South East Asia alone in 2012.

Now, according to Rommel Juan, who is president of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines, the island nation is set to become the EV hub of Asia. To some who have lived in the Philippines and are familiar with the rolling brown-outs (power-cuts) that have traditionally plagued the nation, this may seem to be almost counter-intuitive; but recently with the privatization of the power-generating sector of the Philippines, there have been marked improvements.

Rommel Juan believes that the industry cannot rely on the traditional power-generating infrastructure. In a recent interview he said, “The electric vehicle industry should not be fully dependent on the traditional sources of power we use today such as those that still come from coal and fossil fuel power plants. EVAP endorses the setting up and use of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and bio-gas.” Of course this will take a lot of money to develop and right now there is no indication of who, if anyone, is willing to invest.

Even President Obama got on-board during a recent state visit

The goal is to firmly target the 3.5 million tricycle taxis that congest the highways, releasing about 260,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, and also to replace about 30,000 Jeepney’s with 15,000 EV’s by 2017. The project will cost about US$500 million and will be funded largely by the Asian Development Bank. It starts with the supply of 100,000 electric trikes on a lease costing US$5 a day, presumably paid for by the money that would have gone to buying gas.

To date, the initiatives have been championed by environmental NGO’s such as Greenpeace but the private sector is firmly on board as well. South of the capital in an area known as Filinvest City, a part of Alabang, lucky commuters will be able to traverse the busy streets in what is being touted as the country’s first fully integrated electric-powered public transport system as the main mode of transportation to go around the city.

The vehicles will have a total of 26 pick-up points in what is being called the Filinvest 360 Eco Loop and residents are being told that they can look forward to a future of energy-efficient vehicles with zero carbon emissions and quiet engines, and a promise of clean air in the future. A grand vision indeed.

Miss Earth 2014 contestants on a test ride of the 360 Eco-Loop



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