Wednesday, 4 July 2007

RP's transport icon going green

Original report at ABS-CBN News

Gas-guzzling, smoke-belching Philippine public transport icon the jeepney is going green.

The first electronic jeepney was unveiled Wednesday in the Makati financial district, where it will be test driven for the next three months in a project environmentalists said could revolutionize public transport in the country.

Already 50 have been ordered for the island of Negros.

The P550,000 (US$11,956) electric jeepney was built by Solar Electric Co. (Solarco) and costs around the same as the conventional model.

Solarco president Robert Puckett said the electric jeepney would seat 10 to 12 passengers comfortably and cost P150 a day to run compared with around P800-P900 a day using diesel.

The truck-based mini-buses popularly known as jeepneys are among the biggest polluters on Manila's roads and there are some 400,000 of them in the capital.

"Every day tens of thousands of commuters pack into the backs of jeepneys breathing in toxic fumes," Puckett said.

"People are packed in like sardines and there is no air conditioning. When passengers reach their destination they are hot, sweaty and covered in soot."

The jeepney began life in the 1950s, evolving from US jeeps left behind after World War II. Its flamboyant design and bright colors make it instantly recognizable.

Driver Eddie Lajara said the new model was "very quiet" and more comfortable than its predecessor.

Greenpeace's Von Hernandez, one of the supporters of the project, said electric jeepneys "demonstrate how cities can help mitigate the problem of climate change."

"Given the urgency of the need to address this global threat, it is encouraging to see pioneering cities like Makati take the initiative in implementing measures that would avoid the use of climate change-inducing fossil fuels," he said.

Solarco said it hopes eventually to power the jeepneys using biodegradable waste. AFP

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