Electric vehicles have been around for a long time but only recently have they been put to actual use in local cities. Puttering around like large golf carts, they have long been treated as novelty vehicles, transporting customers within malls or transferring people from one building to another. And while they proved useful that way, they were not considered as “real” service vehicles.
The Electric Jeepney was featured in the news in 2009 as a cleaner alternative to the diesel-powered workhorses that move Metro Manila’s denizens around. And for some time, too, it was just an interesting piece of information to everyone who saw the features, until some groups decided that it was time to put the eJeepneys to actual use.
According to Bong Cruz of Philippine Utility Vehicles Inc., manufacturer of the eJeepney, the vehicle was considered environment-friendly because it did not create noise or produce harmful exhaust emissions like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide that could contribute to climate change at excessive levels.
Studies have shown that every liter of diesel avoided results in a reduction of 3,140 grams of CO2 (carbon dioxide) and 16 grams of N2O (nitrous oxide) released to the atmosphere.
Unlike hybrids or electric concept cars, the eJeepneys use ordinary car batteries for power. And while this is far from the gold standard of electric vehicles (the latest ones use batteries similar to those used on laptops), it is still better than fossil fuels. The idea is that electric vehicles get “cleaner” as time passes and the electric grid begins using more eco-friendly power sources.
With a build similar to small “multicab” shuttle vehicles that seat 12 passengers, the eJeepneys are perfect for short community routes.
The Makati City government, in partnership with the Stichting Doen Foundation, launched last November the Makati Green Route project, where the iCSC deployed 10 new Philippine-made eJeepneys that offered free eJeepney rides in Salcedo Village and Legaspi Village, starting and ending in Landmark.
“Bold action is needed during this period when we are beset by the financial and climate crisis. We commend the leadership of Makati City for showing to the country and the world what Filipinos are capable of,” said Red Constantino, director of the iCSC.
According to the iCSC, climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions was expected to triple in Asia in the next 20 years, coming mainly from the transport sector. Sustainable transport and clean energy utilization – key facets of iCSC’s programs – are considered key measures that can help mitigate global warming as well as build more climate-resilient communities.
Before the launching of ejeepneys in Makati City, a Makati office worker would need to walk long distances to get to their offices. Apart from a few (illegal) FX shuttles or taxi cabs, there are no public utility vehicles in Salcedo and Legaspi. This means paying anywhere from P12 (FX shuttle) to over P30 (taxi flag down rate) to travel a distance of a little over a kilometer. And while there are covered, elevated walkways and connected parking buildings, strolling in business attire the afternoon heat is not an appealing prospect especially in the summer months.
According to Chan Donaire of Citibank, she and her officemates appreciate the existence of the Green Route. “Pagbaba namin ng office meron agad. [When we step out of the office there’s one waiting] It’s really accessible. Plus you don’t have to pay for anything.” Getting from her office building in Salcedo Village to, say, Greenbelt mall is usually a 20-minute brisk walk through a couple of underpasses and the elevated walkway. With the eJeepneys the same 20 minutes are spent in relative comfort.
For Arnold Villegas, also a worker in Makati, the presence of eJeepneyss has made his workday more convenient.
“Iyong dating nilalakad mo, pwede ka nang sumakay. Mas mabilis na ngayong makakarating sa pupuntahan tapos convenient at libre pa. [Before I used to walk, now I can ride. It’s faster, more convenient, and free],” he said.
Eric Monil shares the same sentiment. “Nung wala pang eJeepneys, naglalakad lang kasi wala pang biyahe.” [Before the eJeepneyss I used to walk because there were no rides available.]
Some non-regular passengers are not aware that the service is free and will often ask how much the fare is. Rodel Luto, a MAPSA-assigned eJeepneys driver says “Sinasabi namin sa kanila na libre ang sakay. Pero may mga iba na nagsasabing magbibigay sila so tinuturo na lang namin iyong box. [We tell them that the service is free. But since they insist on giving something so we point to the box] referring to the suggestion/comment box located in the passenger area. Others who still want to help give the drivers food or bottled water.
While providing a convenient means of transportation to Makati workers is a worthy enoughgoal, the Makati Green Route Project ultimately aims to educate every passenger on living greener lifestyle.
“We want them to experience riding an environment-friendly vehicle in order for them to realize that it is safe and comparable to regular cars,” says Constantino.
The project is being appreciated by Makati workers not just for the free rides but also because the vehicles do lesser harm to the environment. “Dapat maging tuloy-tuloy itong gawin kasi maganda iyong programa. Malaking tulong sa mga tao sa Makati. Tapos mababawasan pa iyong polusyon,” [It should continue because the program is good. It’s a big help to the people of Makati and it lessens pollution] shares Romeo Taripe, a Makati worker and resident.
Currently, there are 12 eJeepneys in Makati, 8 of which travel two routes (Salcedo and Legaspi), with the other four serving as back-ups in case of mechanical/technical problems.
The Makati Green Route is being funded and operated by the ICSC, through the assistance of Stichting Doen Foundation. “We have sourced the funding to set up the project for its initial run but its maintenance and continued operation will be dependent on an advertising-based business model,” shares Yvonne Castro, ICSC executive director. The free rides are crucial to the project’s goal of promoting the use of electric vehicles so a regular fare is not being considered.
ICSC encourages businesses and other organizations to support this green campaign by adopting an eJeepneysney or placing advertisements.
“We need the help of businesses in continuing this project. So we encourage those who are actively engaged in environmental initiatives to support the Makati Green Route Project,” Castro added. (PNA)