MANILA, Philippines -- Noise and smoke-free tricycle may sound like an oxymoron but Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn has presented to the public just such a vehicle which he anticipates would change the urban landscape all over the country.
The electric-powered ?Trikebayan? does not emit any noise or carbon monoxide, providing a breather from the incessant whine of gasoline-powered motorcycle engines and the poisonous gases that come out of their exhaust pipe, enveloping the air in an unhealthy haze.
At yesterday?s Kapihan sa Sulo forum at Sulo Hotel in Quezon City, Hagedorn test drove a prototype of the Trikebayan (Tricycle ng Bayan or the Country?s Tricycle) in the hotel parking lot. The engine was noticeably silent and did not emit any smoke.
?This is still running,? Hagedorn boasted after the tricycle had stopped, and to prove it, he turned the throttle and the vehicle rolled forward a few inches.
The mayor said he anticipated the tricycles would proliferate in his city?touted as one of the cleanest and greenest localities in the country?with 100 plying its streets in three months and a thousand by the end of the year.
Hagedorn said the Trikebayan was environment-friendly and economical, costing just P48 a day to operate. In contrast, he said, a gasoline-powered tricycle cost P200 a day to run because of the high cost of fuel.
?It?s about time we looked for an alternative,? he said at the press conference before the demonstration.
For its small size, the tricycle emits the most poisonous gases into the environment among all types of vehicles.
This according to Rolly Concepcion, the man who conceptualized the Trikebayan.
?There are now some 2.8 million tricycles in the country. Imagine what the smoke they emit does to the environment,? Concepcion told the Inquirer .
With the Trikebayan, Concepcion guarantees ?no repair expenses, no down time during repairs, no fuel expenses, no monthly oil change to discard and damage the environment.?
He pointed out that in the automotive industry practically everyone was going electric.
?At least here in the Philippines, we are addressing that problem from the bottom of the transportation totem pole, the tricycle, the basic public conveyance and transport system,? he said.
It was Concepcion who spearheaded the project to find an alternative to the smoke-belching and noisy tricycles in Puerto Princesa City in 1994, an idea to which Hagedorn caught on.
?Too much focus has been concentrated on electric cars and other gasoline vehicles, forgetting the mother of the biggest pollutant of the air and noise, the tricycle. So we focused our efforts on the tricycle, on the elimination of the very damaging effect of the noise and emissions generated by its operation. This led us to focus and start on the tricycle electric motor conversion project,? Concepcion said.
Concepcion and his team of engineers did research and funded the production of three Trikebayan prototypes which were tested ?to ensure durability, reliability and dependability.?
?I am hoping the other mayors will catch on to the idea and do what Mayor Hagedorn is doing to contribute to the clean air effort,? he said.
There are still obstacles to the effort, however.
Hagedorn acknowledged that converting a tricycle engine to electric might seem expensive at P68,000, the approximate cost of a new motorcycle, but he stressed:
?Preserving the environment is priceless and it would be fairly easy for the driver to obtain a return of investment in less than a year.?
Hagedorn said another problem was how to extend the life of the 36-watt rechargeable battery installed under the passenger seat. Currently, plugging the tricycle into a 220-volt electric outlet overnight allows it to run for 12 hours.
?The battery does not really empty out but retains 40 to 50 percent of its power by that time,? Hagedorn said.
And Concepcion pointed out the electric tricycle would be no match for flooded streets, something that could hinder its introduction in Metro Manila.