While electric vehicles don’t yet make sense for all kinds of transport (unless you can afford an expensive car like the Tesla Model S), there is one use case where EVs are already feasible: short city trips. There’s no reason why taxis, tuk tuks, delivery vans, and mail vehicles shouldn’t soon be electrified, with all the environmental benefits that confers.
The Philippines is already making strides in this direction. Working with the Asian Development Bank, it plans replace its polluting gas-powered tricycle taxi network and have 100,000 tricycles on the road by 2016, a down-payment on the 3.5 million passenger trikes in that country. The hope is to reduce urban pollution and allow drivers to reduce their operating expenses.
ADB says the e-trike fleet could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 260,000 tons per year and cut costs from 250 to 350 pesos (roughly $6-$8) per 100 kilometers with conventional fuel, to between 30 and 50 pesos using electricity. The difference will help offset the cost of the lithium-ion batteries and other hardware. ADB is subsidizing the $500 million program along with the central government and a local utility.
The plan isn’t a silver bullet. According to Aurora Almendral at Next City, critics believe subsidies will distort the market and do little to improve congestion. Others say the extra electricity required will likely come from coal-fired sources, at least for now.
Still, the initiative seems like a logical way to reduce pollution where it does most immediate harm. While we wait for electric cars that can go 500 miles on a single charge, it’s this sort of EV that will make the most sense.