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The Future is Electric

<p>Electric tricycles are a-go-go</p>
by Gelo Gonzales | Apr 20, 2011
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Between the unmistakable stench in the air and the unforgiving smog enveloping our cities like a massive blanket, not a day goes by without us noticing just how polluted Metro Manila is. [firstpara]

For a city that’s as dense as Metro Manila – close to 22 million people, which is about the same as Australia, give or take a few million – its rudimentary to believe that there needs to be something done to address this problem.

Pollution won’t cure itself, so they say.

There needs to be a concerted effort in curbing this problem and thankfully, one industry seems to be taking this plight seriously.

We’ve always been a fan of electric vehicles. In Mandaluyong, a funny-looking tricycle was spotted doing its rounds. It didn’t fit the traditional tricycle image because for one, it was yellow. It also had ADB stickers plastered all over it.

Turns out, those yellow tricycles run on lithium-ion batteries— the same ones that power our laptops and cell phones, albeit in a bigger scale.

The good thing about these e-tricycles and e-jeepneys running routes primarily in Makati is that they run on zero emissions, which means that it doesn’t contribute to the glaring problem of pollution in our cities.

Just to give you a perspective of the numbers we’re dealing with: the 3.5 million motorcycles and tricycles in the country today contribute to about 10 million tons of harmful gases each year. That doesn’t even count what jeeps and buses contribute.

Even more sobering is the fact that 30 percent of all air pollution in the Philippines can be traced to the transport sector and a staggering 80 percent of air pollution in Metro Manila can be pointed to the same sector. 80-freakin-percent, people.

Wrap your heads around those numbers for a second and think about how that affects the same air that we breathe on a daily basis. It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

While there are definitely some downsides to having public electric cars – higher front-up costs, for one – the pay-off is far greater to simply ignore.

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According to the Asian Development Bank, the same company spearheading the e-tricycle project in Mandaluyong, the move towards electric tricycles not only saves us from the effects of harmful gases on our air, but it also helps the country become more energy independent, saving us a ton of money in the process. How much money, exactly? Billions…of dollars…per year.

There’s plenty of room for EVs in our cities, especially privately owned ones. Automakers like Nissan and Chevrolet have come out with their electric rides, the Leaf and Volt, respectively. Other brands are already following suit.

Why can’t we be a good market for these types of cars? Heck, we need them more than most. And it solves more than just pollution problems, too. Notice the outrageous spike in gas prices over the past few months? With EVs, you won’t have to worry about that problem anymore. It’s a way of detaching ourselves from that problem and work towards implementing a new source of transportation that isn’t overly reliant on gasoline.

There are a lot of concerns though, and for a country like the Philippines, expecting forward change overnight is a task that’s easier said than done. For one, we all have to worry about the underlying bureaucracy running rampant in the government these days. We look at things in a glass-half-full kind of way, but even our optimisms are clouded by the very real fact that a lot of our public officials are more worried about being front-runners than game-changers.

Pollution is a very real problem and its something that you can’t just sweep under the rug. Completely eradicating this problem is a task that goes over our heads, and electric vehicles like e-tricycles and e-jeepneys won’t completely solve the problem.

But they’re a start. And for the sake of all of us having to deal with the problem of pollution in our cities, let’s hope that for once, politics takes a back seat to common sense.



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WORDS BY: KIRBY GARLITOS

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