Commuters throughout the Philippines rely heavily on motorcycles and tricycles to navigate through daily traffic. A significant portion of this fleet is operated by drivers who offer their back seats to passengers for fares. This network of gas-powered bikes and tricycles suffers from fluctuating fuel supplies, crowded streets and increased awareness of greenhouse gas emissions. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimates that the Philippines is poised to increase carbon emissions fourfold by 2035 without significant changes. A $300 million grant from the ADB delivered over the next five years aims to replace 100,000 gas-powered tricycles with E-Trikes.
The national government will supply E-Trikes as part of a lease-to-own program operated through December 2017. Each E-Trike is powered by an electric motor and lithium-ion battery that can withstand the rigors of daily travel. Operators should benefit significantly from this overhaul thanks to lower fuel costs and additional seating. The typical tricycle driver earns about $10 per day without accounting for fuel costs. The ADB concluded that drivers could save at least $5 per day by swapping out gasoline for electrical power. A pilot program recently concluded in Manila found that participating operators doubled their daily profits.
Another consequence of the ADB grant is that the Philippines could reckon with the harmful effects of fossil fuels. A fleet of about 3.5 million motorcycles and tricycles operate each day in the Philippines. These conveyances produce nearly two-thirds of air pollution within the nation’s transportation sector due to their constant usage. Swapping out gas guzzlers for E-Trikes would mean a savings of $100 million achieved by reducing fuel imports. These emissions-free vehicles could also cut 260,000 tons of greenhouse gases when fully implemented in 2017. The Philippines also wishes to demonstrate a national focus on green technology that could attract international investment.
The ripple effects of the E-Trike program could be significant for the Filipino economy. A network of electrical chargers could not only serve E-Trikes but plug-in cars and trucks. The ADB grant will help development of five charging stations powered by solar energy in Manila. Additional hybrid and electric cars would require auto shops capable of servicing these vehicles. These shops would employ mechanics who might not otherwise find work in an uneven economy. E-Trikes and other plug-in vehicles also require replacement parts, which could spur on manufacturers as well as retailers. A $300 million grant seems substantial but could be a great investment if these dominos fall in place.
Funds from the ADB will be matched by $99 million from the national government for implementation of the E-Trike program. The ADB also issued $105 million to spur on the country’s Clean Technology Fund. The Philippines is receiving this boost in part because of a large consumer base that could be swayed toward greener technology. A population of 92 million is increasingly moving toward major metro areas like Quezon City and Manila. This congregation in urban areas would maximize the impacts of the ADB’s E-Trike grant. The Philippines is in a strong position to compete with neighboring powers like Japan and China in the growing green vehicle market.