E-jeeps draw Legazpi curiosity, 03/02/10

NO SMOKE, DRONE, rumbling or ear-blasting roars—the electronic jeepneys or e-jeepneys have arrived here silently in the name of efficient use of energy.
Two weeks ago, seven brightly painted e-jeepneys plied the city’s tourist routes from the airport to Venezia Hotel and Embarcadero de Legazpi, where they were launched after an early press conference.

Ako-Bikol, a party-list group which is behind the project, said e-jeepneys would serve as a model for future cars in the countryside and was fully supported by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
Annie Sumanga of Ako-Bikol explained that her group “is embarking on environment-friendly endeavors and the e-jeepney is just one of them.”
The e-jeepneys were made in Manila at an estimated cost of not more than P500,000 each.
“It takes eight hours to fully charge a unit, which can continuously run up to a distance of 110-120 kilometers at 35 km-per-hour speed,” Sumanga said.
The e-jeepney operates on an electric motor placed underneath the driver’s seat, with mechanical parts similar to an ordinary four-tired car.
“Although the rides are for free while awaiting franchise from the LTFRB, this is not meant to compete with the existing public utility jeepneys (PUJs),” Sumanga said in the press conference.
The e-jeeps, she said, would take only selected roads to and from the airport to Hotel Venezia, St. Elis Hotel and the Embarcadero.
Pio Fernandez, a commentator of dzGB radio station who was among those who rode an e-jeepney from the Embarcadero to his station 2 km away, said “without any hassle, I enjoyed the ride for free and I am optimistic this is going to be the future transportation here with more room for improvement.”
“This e-jeepney looks like a golf cart, but it looks interesting and I’m going to ride it, especially that it is for free on its initial runs,” Rommel Rosario, a nursing student, said.
Other “accidental” riders said they could easily drive the e-jeepney.
But Marcelo Salud, LTFRB regional director, warned that license requirements similar to fossil-fueled motor vehicles would also apply to e-jeeps.
Sumanga said the franchise was still being worked out and her group hoped to secure the papers next month so that fares could be collected from passengers.
Salud said PUJs might also be converted to e-jeeps. Some engineering groups in Naga City have shown interest in developing technologies patterned after the e-jeepney, he said.
“Imagine the city filled with e-jeepneys as purely electric machines that belch nothing, make no noise pollution, provide comfortable seat and are complementary to the city’s smoke-free campaign,” Rose Orbita, chair of the Legazpi City Smoke-Free Committee, said.
“We have been campaigning against cigarette smoking in public places and these e-jeepneys are a welcome development, complementing the smoke-free goal of the city,” Orbita said.

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