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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jeepneys Enter the Green Age in The Philippines

Jeepneys, those crazy-looking public transport vans in the Philippines, appear to be on the threshold of a new age when the engine pollution, the noise, and the undisciplined drivers, will be no more. A band of environmentalists, public servants, and non-government organizations (NGOs) have succeeded in giving the old iconic jeepney (left), more than just a facelift. After some sixty years since they came into existence coming from American jeeps of the second world war, they are now getting a new look and a new engine.

Take a ride in the Philippines' jeepney of the future (top)! It's manufactured by Philippine Utility Vehicle and it's not fueled by diesel but batteries, which allow it to run clean on electricity. It's also ergonomically designed. Before, passengers bump their heads on useless contraptions on the ceiling and whenever they need to see where they are on the road, they have to crank their necks low to look out the window, the opening of which is often below the level of the eyes. Compared to the old jeepney, the new one gives a pleasant ride.

The electric jeepneys can seat up to 12 people and can travel 70 kilometers at 70 kph. The range is not great but it does the job for inner city travels. Charging the batteries take as long as 8 hours, or practically all day, which is perhaps the downside to this novel transportation, but according to Director Red Constantino, of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities in Metro Manila, it's very important to have solutions on the ground "to show people that these types of things are viable."

The electric jeepney is getting a pilot run in routes in Makati that are dubbed "green." Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, says the technology helps reduce the smoke-belching problem. Interestingly, the Clean Air Act is supposed to be the solution to smoke-belchers and other air polluting factors in the country, but so far, the pollution coming from vehicles hasn't changed. With only 15 unites currently serving Makati City, the Philippines still has a long way to go to replace all 60,000 in Metro Manila alone.

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