electric bugaloo

So you've probably read about the electric jeepneys doing test runs in Makati. (See the blog posts by Ajay and and thread at Digital Pinoy.)

The project, spearheaded by Greenpeace and Solar Electric Co. (Solarco), actually previously debuted in Bacolod.

Market price for the e-jeepney is pegged at P550,000. It carries a five-horsepower engine running off 12 rechargable batteries and is capable of carrying up to 17 passengers at a max speed of 40kph.

Here's the big (and as far I can see, only benefit):

(President of Solarco Panch) Puckett said a daily electric charge of an e-jeepney battery would cost around P150, compared to the P800 to P1,000 fuel expense of a passenger jeepney running on gasoline or diesel.
So if adopted, it could redound to significant savings and better earnings for the jeepney driver (unless the operator decides to raise the boundary correspondingly).

But I hold a healthy skepticism for promises on which they built the spin of the press releases i.e. cleaner air for our cities.

Don't get me wrong, e-jeepneys will cut GHG emissions but we only have to do the math to see where the real problem lies: Private cars outnumber PUVs 9 to 1 in the Metro and the numbers are growing rapidly. Between 2003 and 2005, 67,186 PUVs were added to our roads while the total number of private vehicles rose by 10 times that number to 690,153.

Even if you assume that PUVs generate 3x the pollution of an ordinary car, 75% of the existing air pollution would still generated by private cars. Even if you can reduce all the GHG emissions of PUVs to zero, private cars would still be generating pollution at three-fourths of our current levels.

This is another one of my sirang plaka (broken record) themes -that we need to make public transport more efficient and more attractive than private car use if we are to make a serious dent on our air pollution.

That we need to think of moving people vs. moving vehicles and prioritize improving public transport over relieving traffic congestion (besides, expanding roads or making our roads faster will not solve our traffic problems).

We don't have to reinvent the wheel, Mexico City, Curitiba, Bogota and even Jakarta are making strides in efficient public transportation.

Image credit: Annalyn Jusay

P.S. -There are a few other things that e-jeepneys will have to overcome before they can make an impact (these aren't insurmountable, but they require more work than big splash press events):
  • (As I already said above) How will the boundary system affect the take-up of e-jeepneys among drivers or even operators?
  • What about the support infrastructure? (-i.e. the availability of repair shops and mechanics)
  • What about the replacement (and disposal) of the batteries? (Which are also serious pollutants.)

P.P.S. - Some of Ajay's commentors were complaining about how "anachronistic" the jeepney is. (Skye says the fact that they are still around "has got to be the most depressing piece of news" to ever hit her.)

I beg to disagree. Jeepneys CAN'T be anachronistic because people still use them. The market for jeepneys (riders) is apparently still big enough to support drivers and operators alike.

Why are there still riders? Because our public transportation is chaotic. Because we build roads instead of streets.


Eugene said...

When I was in Tokyo, I really loved the train system there. There's no practical need to drive a car around there anymore since the trains are quite fast and efficient. And usually comfortable if you manage to avoid the rush hours.

I also wished the same for Metro Manila, a comparably sized metropolis in both size and population. But setting up train lines in Metro Manila is quite an expensive investment. MRT, despite its popularity, is not recouping its expense fast enough.

So I agree that your suggested BRTSs are the way to go. The problem is, is having a lobby group to push for changes. Do you have any idea how we can do that? There are many lobby groups doing good things already, but urban planning is such an unknown concept in the Philippines that educating the public enough to coerce them into action is a real challenge.

I'm glad your blog is helping put these topics out.

Urbano dela Cruz said...


BRT is definitely the way to go. Jakarta started in 2002 and now has more BRT kilometers than any other city in the world. Beijing is starting this year will have 3 times the BRT lines as any other in the world by the middle of the next decade.

Urban planning is an unknown concept only because so few people are talking about it. And yet is has so much to do with the quality of our lives: where and how we live, how we travel daily, the public places we share.

I don't think we need to "coerce" people into action -we just need to make those links. (i.e. - how much time we spend in traffic is directly connected to the quality of our home life. the lack of public open spaces is directly connected to the quality of our democracy.)

How do you start? Well, how do you bring attention to a problem in any other field? By measuring the dimensions of the problem and showing people what the alternative could be. (e.g.- not solving this costs the company X dollars a minute.)

Anonymous said...

Can I say this,frankly were a stupid nation today and for the last 30 years(sorry),that's why we're a 3rd world country.Then I guess we have to be stupid to be smart.I hope not another 30 years.


peterangliongto said...

I'm curious if anyone has ever done a cost benefit analysis with replacing jeepneys on certain routes with more efficient forms of transportation like access controlled buses and the like. While electric jeeps may be better than unmaintained diesels (an assumption that may in itself be debunked) we may be looking at a solution that may not necessarily address the actual problem - the need for more efficient non or less pollutive public transport.

peterangliongto-sorry account doesn't seem to work

Urbano dela Cruz said...


obviously you have no bravo for your fellow indios.

you might want to travel more or read more or both. it might open your eyes to how common our problems are in other countries and how we share many of the challenges with them.

at the very least, it could help you drop your aging nomenclature: we can't be a "third world country" because there is no third world anymore -because (with the possible exception of Cuba) there is no "second world" anymore.

So the new nomenclature is Developed vs. Developing, or North vs. South.

Even the term "industrialized" (as in Newly Industrialized Country) is starting to get old, because countries like India and the Philippines (!) have found they can jump the industrialization stage and move into a services economy.

(sorry, I get snarky with my countrymen who do nothing but look down on their own country)


Urbano dela Cruz said...


I haven't seen any cost-benefit studies. I'm not even sure we need one.

We know the jeepney+bounday system is inefficient. (too many public-bads generated)

The challenge is to find an efficient alternative that addresses the concerns of all the stakeholders.

peterangliongto said...

hehe actually I think Jeepneys are also pretty much an anachronism for most of it's routes, just making sure am not really missing anything here since am not a transportation specialist. I'm just not sure if Buses are economically viable on a secondary feeder line such as Sta-Hulo for example. Of course there are the tricycles but that's another problem altogether. What's clear to me is that areas where there is no plan to have rail based mass transit lines such as Granada-Ortigas- Ortigas Extension to East Manila and which are served primarily and extensively by Jeep (though the G liner does serve it) should be converted to some sort of access controlled BRT Line. That seems to make sense.

Urbano dela Cruz said...


I think the long haul jeepney routes are the best candidates for BRT replacement especially if long sections of the route runs through major thoroughfares. (Ortigas for one, the Fairview-Quiapo-Malate is another.)

I don't think we can totally get rid of the jeepney, or some variant of it, as it does serve "akward" mid-range routes -and would still need a hybrid secondary-tertiary transport function.

In those cases, shifting away from a boundary system to a salary based system would do wonders for jeepney driver behavior.

We can also do a lot to reduce demand by making sure our streets are walkable, so 10 minute or 20 minute walks are not unbearable.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to upset you.I guess it's my frustration on our country that led me to right such things.It's just that when you have worked with other nationalities and has seen countries that we were actually better economically before,and now their country has overtaken us,you can't help wonder why we continue to go around in circles and not move forward.We are basically at par with the Japanese,Koreans,Malaysians etc.,as far as capabilties are concerned.But they were able to have better lives than us Filipinos.I just can't accept that they are much better than us Filipinos.Then again,I fervently hope we could soon find better leaders to lead our country to prosperity.Apologies for the harsh words.

peterangliongto said...

I completely agree with the intermediary routes run by non buses. It's what I was referring to in terms of cost benefit or economically viable. For a lot of this last several mile type routes, I'd at least incentivize them to change from diesel to LPG so that it's a lower level of pollution. I'm not too sure the take up of electric jeeps however interesting would be realistic.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

Maybe we can even shift to compressed air engines.

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