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PHL, UK push for green transport


March 7, 2012 – Is the Philippines ready for the electric vehicle industry revolution?

Days after launching the first eJeepney franchise in the Philippines, climate policy NGO Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) says the answer is yes.

Representatives from the private sector, transport operators and drivers, and local government units gathered as experts from the United Kingdom discussed the progress of low-emission vehicles in Europe and North America at a conference held on March 7 at the Manila Polo Club.

At the conference dubbed “Sustainable Transport in the Philippines: Strengthening Opportunities and Creating Partnerships for Electric Public Utility Vehicles,” ICSC Director Red Constantino explained that the electric vehicle industry produces a ripple effect, resulting in jobs, social benefits and new revenue.

New investment agenda

“We are promoting nothing less than a new investment agenda aimed at generating green jobs in services and manufacturing while producing margins that can secure more economic benefits for fleet operators, drivers and commuters alike,” he said.

In his keynote speech, Senator Ralph Recto called for the early passage of the Alternative Fuel Incentives Bill, which is designed to encourage manufacturers to shift to electric vehicle manufacturing. Recto noted there is now one motor vehicle for every 14 Filipinos, with 7 million motor vehicles on the congested streets. “The automobile has given us the convenience to travel long distances in comfort. It drives our economy because despite the creation of the information highway much of trade still moves on motorized wheels.”

But Recto said there is a price to pay for this convenience, and the challenge is to improve the motor vehicle so it will “spew less poison and bleed less foreign exchange.”

Costs of gas, pollution

EV_Conference_March_7_2“Every hour, 2.029 million liters of gasoline are consumed every hour, with one kilometer of road built or repaved to accommodate the 47 new vehicles which are registered during the same period. Every hour, P53,000 is spent to treat pollution-related diseases and to compensate for productivity losses. Every hour, 2,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide is pumped into the air, a carbon footprint which requires the planting of 56,000 trees to absorb all that poison. Every hour, traffic jams in Metro Manila alone cause P16 million in economic losses. Every hour, four Filipinos die from dirty air,” said Recto.

Transport for London’s Surface Transport Chief Operating Officer Garrett Emmerson discussed traffic and road management in London, where they are targeting a 60 percent reduction in the City’s CO2 emissions by 2025. In 2008, CO2 emissions from ground-based transport were at 9.7m tons.

“In terms of air quality, there are a number of ways of reducing the emissions that come from vehicles,” he said. Part of London’s strategy is the Low Emission Zone, which covers 1,580 square kilometers of Greater London, and targets the oldest and most polluting vehicles. They also aim to reduce emissions from London’s bus fleet through a number of measures.

Hybrid bus development

Another part of their strategy is the hybrid bus development, which combines diesel engine and electric motor, using regenerative breaking technology. There are 249 hybrid buses currently in service, with a targeted 300 buses by the end of this year. Hybrids deliver a 30 percent reduction in CO2 and a 30 percent reduction in fuel use as compared with regular diesel buses.

There is also a new bus in service that produces less than half the CO2 of diesel buses, making it a third more fuel efficient than the current hybrid buses. Yet another green transport method in London is the hydrogen bus project, which has zero vehicle emissions and plies a single route for up to twenty hours daily.

Retrofitting existing buses

Meanwhile, existing buses are “greened” with retrofitted Diesel Particulate Filters, which ensure that the buses meet Euro IV PM10 standard. On top of this, Selective Catalytic Reduction will reduce NOx emissions by up to 90 percent.

To encourage drivers to switch to Euro 5 compliant vehicles, a 15 year age limit for taxis and 10 years for minicabs was introduced, as London taxis and minicabs contribute around 20 percent of harmful emissions from ground transport in Central London.

In London, electric vehicles are seen to emit 40 percent less CO2 using UK grid mix, with no tailpipe emissions and a rapidly-growing technology attracting investment. According to Emmerson, electric vehicles have the potential to contribute 10-15 thousand jobs and 600 million pounds annually to London’s economy by 2025.

A cohesive public network

The goal is to develop a comprehensive public network, so that no Londoner will be more than a mile away from a public charging point. Since May of last year, Source London has 600 charge points are available across London. The points are accessed by a smart card, available to members for 10 pounds.

These measures fall under the mayor’s transport strategy, which has three objectives: to improve operational efficiency, to support and enable the development of low carbon vehicles, and to promote carbon efficient mode choice.

Sustainable transport group Arup Associate Director and Engineering Manager Neil Butcher explained in his presentation that the benefits of electric vehicles include a 5dB reduction, with quieter traffic leading to reduced acoustic insulation requirements for buildings.

Barriers to implementation

On the other hand, Butcher listed the following barriers: purchase cost of electric vehicles, availability of recharging points, speed of recharging, and questions on the electric vehicle’s green credentials such as the energy required to manufacture batteries, and battery recycling.

“Attitudes are likely to change as electric vehicles become more common,” he said. While most consumers see full electric vehicles as less capable, Butcher pointed out that running costs are lower for all electric vehicles.

“It’s more about reassurance. People don’t necessarily understand the er running costs of electric vehicles,” said Butcher, saying that consumers need education to look at whole life costs, not just purchase price. “Focusing on the outcome, on the reduction targets of CO2 is the way to go. Because it centralizes the national government, and the local government, and the private sector,” he said.

“When we talk about electric vehicles, people are often skeptical about the long-term viability. Every new technology is met with skepticism at the time, but over a period of time, the skepticism can be addressed. The project is becoming more viable, its potential more obvious,” said British Ambassador Stephen Lillie.

Just the beginning

Ejeepney Transport Corporation chief executive officer Yuri Sarmiento said that eJeepneys are only the beginning, and the EJTC is prepared to help grow green enterprises that are locally sourced and financed. “With electric vehicles, we can tap new revenue streams such as battery leasing operations, electronic ticketing and scaled-up replacement programs aimed at converting public and private fossil-fueled vehicles into environment-friendly transport.” Sarmiento noted that support toward the emerging industry is a strategic move, as oil prices will continue to increase. On the other hand, he said the cost of clean technologies will sustain its downward trajectory.

In his reaction speech, ADB Transport Economist Ko Sakamoto said that surprisingly, the UK and the Philippines share a lot of similarities when it comes to the urban transport sector. “Both suffer from acute congestion…air pollution is also very much pressing in both of these countries, energy security is jeopardized because of reliance on fossil fuels,” he said, adding that both are taking proactive steps to mitigate climate impacts from the transport sector.

Sakamoto noted that while 1 out of 14 people in the Philippines own a car, it is important to consider the reverse, that 13 out of 14 do not have a car. “We must remember that as we develop strategies in the transport sector…Service-based public transport systems continue to play a very important role in both countries. Perhaps targeting public transport is the right approach,” he said.


The power of cultural icons

He also said that icons really matter, such as London’s Route Master red bus, which has become a prominent symbol of the capital and eJeepneys resembling the traditional jeepneys of the Philippines. “This is about getting people excited about these low carbon transport issues which otherwise might not appeal to a wider audience,” said Sakamoto.

“What we need to do in the transportation sector to improve energy efficiency and reduce the reliance on fossil fuels is to avoid the need for unnecessary travel, shift towards low carbon modes of transport like cycling and walking, and the improvement of energy efficiency, technical efficiency of every type of transport,” he added.

Lillie said we can’t wait for the political decisions to be reached before we start to tackle climate change. “We have to move right away. This is where development of electric vehicles is crucial,” he said. “You have the opportunity to plan for the future and to plan for sustainable organization. You don’t have to replicate what happens when you walk out onto EDSA and you’re wrapped in a cloud of suffocating smoke. You have the chance to plan for sustainable transport systems, and that’s a very exciting prospect for the Philippines. The Philippines can really lead the way and set an example internationally. And if the UK can be a part of that process, so much the better,” said Lillie.

Country’s first battery swapping station

After the conference, there was a tour of the first Battery Swapping Station for Makati’s eJeepneys. According to ICSC, the roll-off, roll-on process can be done in less than ten minutes. However, the demonstration did not go as smoothly as planned, as the battery pack fell off as it was being transferred. Without too much fuss, the pack was replaced and the swapping process resumed. The organizers admitted that challenges such as this are welcome, and improvements will continually be made. — TJD, GMA News

Cover photo: Her Majesty’s Ambassador Stephen Lillie of the British Embassy in Manila drives an E-jeep along Ayala Avenue during a convoy of electric vehicles going to the Makati Central Fire Station.

2nd photo: Senator Ralph Recto receives a framed copy of the 4 degrees map from iCSC Exec. Dir. Red Constantino (L) and British Embassy Climate Change Officer Roslyn Arayata (R) during a conference on sustainable transport system in the Philippines organized by climate policy group Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities(iCSC) and the British Embassy in Manila. Senator Recto calls for the passage of a legislative measure promoting the use and manufacture of local electric vehicles.

Photos by Gigie Cruz/iCSC