Asian Development Bank Supports E-Trikes as Public Transit in Manila
The Philippines is working to incorporate 20,000 electric tricycles into its traffic flow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut high costs of inefficient vehicles. Photo via Asian Development Bank.

The Philippines is working to incorporate 20,000 electric tricycles into its traffic flow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut high costs associated with inefficient vehicles. Photo via Asian Development Bank.

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III transferred 20 electric tricycles (e-trikes) to the City of Mandaluyong today as an initial effort to reduce air pollution and move closer to energy independence. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is funding the project and the incorporation of the first 20 e-trikes is part of a greater plan to integrate 20,000 more into the country’s traffic flow to be used for public transport.

Air quality has been a resonating issue in the Philippines. The Philippine Environment Monitor estimated in 2007 that nearly 5,000 premature deaths each year in Manila are due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases from exposure to poor air quality. This number makes up 12 percent of all deaths reported in the country. According to Rahul Raturi, the sector manager at the World Bank’s Rural Development, Natural Resources and Environmental Sector, one-fifths of all reported cases of disease were due to air pollution, water pollution, poor sanitation and hygiene. Furthermore, transport emissions account for 30 percent of all pollution in the country and 80 percent of air pollution in Manila, according to the ADB.

Today, there are 3.5 million motorized tricycles operating in the Philippines that produce more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide, for which $5 billion of fuel is imported, ADB reports. In addition to improving air quality, the new fleet of e-trikes is also in an effort to save the Philippines $35 million annually and move them closer to energy independence.

“Every 20,000 e-trikes that are introduced to Manila’s streets will save the Philippines 100,000 liters of foreign fuel imports each day, saving the country about $35 million annually,” said Sohail Hasnie, the Principal Energy Specialist at ADB.

The e-trikes do require higher up-front costs but save money and fuel in the long run compared to older petrol tricycles, which are twice as expensive to operate and maintain. The e-trikes use lithium ion batteries, which are known for their slow loss of charge and high energy densities that allow them to pack more energy in a smaller sized casing, as we previously reported.

The earned savings from the e-trikes will go to its operators, according to the ADB press release, further encouraging the popularity of this technology.

Although anticipated to improve air quality and save money, the new e-trikes do not address concerns of traffic congestion and road safety, which are equally worrisome topics in a developing city like Manila. In fact, CNN listed “steering a motorcycle through Manila traffic” in its “10 insane activities for thrill-seekers” in early 2011, further highlighting the importance of implementing road safety measures.

According to the ADB, e-trikes will have a carbon footprint that will be three-quarters of the petroleum-fueled tricycles currently operating in Manila. In addition, as part of the pilot project, the ADB will install charging stations in Mandaluyong City, which will allow operators to charge their vehicles up to 50 percent capacity in 30 minutes, with one station powered through solar energy.

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