E-jeepney paves way for ‘green’ cars

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By Alexander Villafania

MAKATI CITY, METRO MANILA — The city of Makati was first to partner with environment protection group Greenpeace to build the country’s first environment-friendly public transport, the E-Jeepney.  Powered only by a set of rechargeable batteries, the e-jeepney can ply the streets for at about 10 hours before the battery runs out, and then recharged for about 8 to 10 hours before running again.

Because it does not use fossil fuels, the e-jeepney does not emit any carbon monoxide smoke, which is said to contribute to the accumulation of greenhouse gases. It is also relatively quiet as only the small electric engine produces sound.

So far, the e-jeepneys in Makati are still running although some have seen repairs made over time. Aside from the Makati e-jeepneys, Bacolod City also became a recipient of the e-jeepney project, which is part of the Government, Green Independent Power Producer (GGRIP).

Just recently, Legazpi City in the Bicol region became the third city to roll out the e-jeepney. Their rollout came prior to the start of the International Conference on Climate Change Adaptation in Denmark in December last year.

Despite many physical and engineering limitations, the e-jeepney is proof that “green” vehicles have a possibility to become commercially viable. This has been harped about for many years as fossil fuel consumption in the Philippines continues to increase, resulting in high levels of air pollution especially in metro cities.

A law has already been passed, the Clean Air Act of 1999, that specifies the need to look for alternate sources of fuel for vehicles to reduce carbon emissions. Another law, the Biofuels Act of 2006, significantly expands the scope of the Clean Air Act to find other sources of energy not just for vehicles but for all energy-consuming equipment.

Following this trend, as well as global trends in alternate sources of energy for vehicles, major car manufacturers have also worked to find ways to introduce “green” cars to the country. The first to do so is Japanese car giant Toyota, which is the first to officially sell a hybrid car, the Prius. Toyota has been testing the Prius for years and was among the first to make a hybrid car available worldwide. However, the company’s plans to dominate the green car market could be in jeopardy due to the recent brake and gas pedal problems in the Prius and several other Toyota models.

Japanese automaker Honda was reported to be planning to introduce its own hybrid Honda Insight. It could cost up to P1.114 million if sold in the Philippines, which makes it nearly half as cheap as the Prius. Honda sees itself setting the bar on hybrid vehicles as it even proudly compares their Insight with Toyota’s hybrid vehicle, especially with the upcoming 2010 Prius II.

Other manufacturers have yet to follow Honda and Toyota in introducing green cars to the country. Mitsubishi and Mazda, for instance, have not yet made any announcements to introduce hybrid cars locally, though they have also been making progress in their own development of green cars. Mitsubishi’s iMiEV is being prepared for introduction this year. More recently, Mazda showcased its Premacy Hydrogen RE, which uses a unique engine that can use either gasoline or hydrogen as external fuel sources.

Both Mitsubishi and Mazda’s models may take some time to arrive in the Philippines, if they will arrive at all.

With the government putting its back on energy efficiency and premise of reducing carbon emissions, the future of green vehicles may take some time to be implemented but for now it is secure.

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