Electric jeepneys a breath of fresh air for Manila

Slideshow ( 3 images )

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - Manila’s traffic-clogged roads are set for a quieter, cleaner future with the launch of an electric version of the jeepney, the iconic buses that transport the city’s millions in a riot of color and fumes.

Environmental groups revved up two electric models of the jeepney, a uniquely Philippine bus fashioned after a U.S. military jeep, in the capital on Wednesday and there are plans for a fleet of 50. Launches are also planned in other cities.

With a mechanism similar to a golf cart, the 12-seater jeep runs on rechargeable batteries for up to 120 km (75 miles). Ideally, the electricity used will come from household and market waste.

The original jeepney was manufactured by World War Two mechanics from leftover U.S. military vehicles. Today, the open-air buses are vividly painted and festooned with upbeat slogans or prayers.

The jeepney is the cheapest ride in town. In Manila, 7.5 pesos ($0.16) will cover 4 km (2.5 miles) but it’s an uncomfortable journey -- commuters are packed knee-to-knee on twin benches and there is no air-conditioning or windows to shield against the heat and din.

Most drivers welcomed the idea of a cleaner ride and possible savings on fuel but Primo Baculpo was unconvinced.

“It’s not good. What if there is a power outage? The passengers will be late, they’ll say ‘Get rid of this vehicle’.”