E-Tricycles Coming to the Streets of the Philippines

Tricycles are a common means of transportation in the Philippines and a major contributor to air pollution. Photo by Lisa and Alec via Flickr.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), along with the Philippine Department of Energy, has begun implementing a plan to introduce as many as 100,000 electric tricycles to the streets of the Philippines by 2020. Tricycles, smoke-belching and inexpensive three-wheeled vehicles found across the Philippine islands, are one of the country’s biggest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases. Replacing even a portion of the country’s estimated 3.5 million tricycles with electric alternatives is expected to significantly improve urban air quality and cut down on carbon emissions. An effective electric tricycle could also offer a cleaner alternative to similar modes of transportation in other countries, such as tuk-tuks in Thailand or auto-rickshaws in India.

As a first step, a pilot program of 20 e-tricycles has been operating for the past year in parts of Metro Manila, the vast urban area that includes the national capital. Metro Manila suffers from some of the poorest air quality in the country, with clean air regulations frequently ignored even by enforcement officials. According to the World Bank, as many as 5,000 premature deaths among Metro Manila residents are linked to air pollution, with costs to the city as high as $19 million per year.

The success of the Metro Manila pilot program is a promising start to the project. Drivers have found that e-trike batteries can be charged for $1, as opposed to $6-$8 to fill a gas tank. While the vehicles cost more up front than traditional tricycles, they cost less to operate and have lower maintenance costs. The batteries themselves are a dependable, well-established technology—the same lithium ion batteries used in laptops and cell phones.

ADB and the Philippine government are searching for a manufacturer for the 100,000 units that will be rolled out over the next few years. The vehicles will be manufactured within the Philippines, creating badly needed jobs and a new industry that will put the country on track to a more sustainable transit future.

See the video below for an introduction to e-trikes in Manila:

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