E-jeepneys: Kings of the road be born again!

Sick of the carbon-packed smoke you smell around Metro Manila? Still concerned about the motorists’ using diesel, a form of fossil fuel that’s the major cause for global warming? Air pollution, which is related to human health, and global warming, to that of mother earth, our home, are two decades-old problems that don’t seem to go away. And environmentalists or mother earth advocates look unable to make a dent in this regard.

Well, not anymore. The Southeast Asian environmentalists, at least, are now walking their talk. They do not just come out in the streets sounding like doomsday-heralders. They are now parading along with their proposed solution to the urban pollution problem: e-jeepneys.

No, it’s not e-jeepneys in a sense that it has its own microprocessor like a computer unit. ‘e’ here means electric, not electronic.

As the Phil. Daily Inquirer and Manila Times covered it perfectly, two units of flashy and fancy-looking electric jeepneys were test-driven in Makati City. It served as the launching of this joint project by the Makati City government, GRIPP (Green Renewable Independent Power Producer) and Greenpeace.

Based on Greenpeace-SEA’s site and the news, some facts about the e-jeepneys:

  1. The e-jeepneys are designed by the Solar Electric Company. It costs about P500,000, has a five-horsepower engine and is capable of carrying up to 17 passengers.
  2. The test-drive will continue for six months in Makati City and eventually in key cities in the Visayas. If the test phase is successful, the fleet will be increased to 50 units.
  3. One corollary effect of the project is increased incomes to the vehicles’ drivers (and/or operators?). This is because drivers will no longer spend up to P1,000 for fuel a day as a vehicle relies only on batteries which require daily charging that costs around P150.
  4. City governments may raise the campaign into a higher level by providing facilities that will generate power from the biodegradable wastes of food establishments and wet markets. The power from these wastes will then become an alternative or additional source of power for the e-jeepneys.

Here’s my advice to the project: Go and multiply. Why, it still requires a big sacrifice on people riding an e-jeepney to cover their noses against the smoke belched by other vehicles. There’s therefore a big challenge for the project holders to mass-produce these cool gadgets, err, vehicles.

I also want to raise a few questions:

  1. Who are the project’s beneficiaries? How would the Sarao Road Kings, for example, be convinced to be born-again drivers? Has Greenpeace attempted to consult with jeepney-operators associations, which should be its perfect partners for the campaign?
  2. Will the e-jeepneys be passenger-friendly in terms of fares?
  3. Can the colors be changed so that they don’t get unnecessary attention (read: traffic accidents)? (I’m a bit serious here)
  4. Can e-jeepneys morph in given situations like wet and scorching days? This means giving protection to passengers against extreme heat and downpours.

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