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The Little Engine That Could (Save the Earth)

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[Photo of E-Trike]Motorized tricycles work just as hard as jeepneys, and produce as much pollution. A new electric version could soon replace  the jeep with a cleaner king of the road.

For students and faculty of Ateneo de Manila University, with its sprawling campus and parking lots filled to capacity, motorized tricycles are a godsend. Mother Nature, on the other hand, may see things differently.

Cheap, convenient, and fast, the tricycles ferry hundreds of passengers around campus and the nearby Katipunan area every day, providing employment and commerce to the surrounding community. They also provide something far less beneficial: hydrocarbons.

Triycles are said to be among the greatest air pollutants because they emit an average of 6000 ppm (parts per million) hydrocarbons and too much of this organic compound contributes to air pollution. Aside from the noxious gases their small bore two-stroke engines produce, they also contribute to noise pollution. Passengers may have a convenient alternative to walking, but are likely to arrive smelling of smoke and partially deaf.

Efforts to curb tricycles and their pollution have met with stiff resistance, but an option being explored by ADMU may soon give the community a more environmentally friendly mode of transportation.

The Ateneo Environmental Management Coalition (AEMC) recently had a test run of two electric tricycle—or E-trike—units in partnership with E-SaVe Transport Systems Inc. This step was done to bring the AEMC closer to its goal of creating an eco-friendly and environmentally responsible campus.

E-trikes are one of the four models available from the Filipino-owned electric vehicle designer and manufacturer E-SaVe. These vehicles are powered by electric motors rather than the usual gasoline engine. They generate no emissions and are silent, so they do not produce air or noise pollution.

E-trikes are also said to be a better choice for drivers and operators since they are easy to maintain and can load more passengers than regular tricycles. Recharging the E-trike's batteries will cost only 33% of a full tank of gas (and, for most units, a bottle of 2T oil), which could mean more profit for tricycle operators. Units can be charged at night and during breaks for a total of 12 hours, and with a large enough fleet, operations won't have to stop when the batteries run out.

According to AEMC's special projects team, the test run got positive feedback from the students. Although they run slower than regular tricycles, curiosity and the promise of green technology had students lining up to give the E-trikes a try. That the futuristic lines of the E-trike (incidentally reminiscent of the Ateneo blue eagle) offered a change from the drab and boxy tricycles also made riding it a badge of coolness.

E-trikes aren't just for students, either. In June 2009, Taguig City also started deploying electric tricycles in its busier areas where commuters gave them a similar reception.

While the AEMC still has to evaluate the results of the E-trike test run, the Ateneo experience shows that going green does not always mean sacrificing comfort, convenience, or coolness.

Print ed: 02/10


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