New company to field electric buses in Makati

A new public transport company, Green Frog Zero Emission Transport, is bringing in 38 electric buses within the year, despite the big risk in investing in an infant Philippine electric vehicle industry.

Green Frog director Philip Go Apostol told reporters said they planned to roll out the first 10 electric buses within the third quarter of the year. The buses will initially ply the Buendia route from Edsa to the South Superhighway (President Sergio Osmeña Highway) and eventually the whole of Makati.

Should this joint project with the Makati City local government prove to be successful, Apostol said, the company planned to bring in a total of 3,000 electric buses within seven years’ time.

He admitted that the cost of bringing in these buses was high, “but we’re hoping that the government would work with us.” In particular, Green Frog is seeking tax perks, among other incentives, and a declaration of pioneer status from the Board of Investments, to make the project financially and economically viable.

Apostol did not disclose how much their electric buses would cost but said that normally, the bigger electric buses would cost $300,000 (P13.5 million) each. Green Frog’s buses, which will come from China, will be smaller and hence, would cost less, he said.

The company has begun negotiations with commercial banks and government financial institutions for the best financing package. Green Frog is also seeking guarantees from the Philippine Export Import Credit Agency (PhilExim) so it can get lower interest rates.

Green Frog’s electric bus will have a capacity of 36 passengers, of which 16 will be seated. Fares would be initially pegged at P8. According to Apostol, half of the revenues will be coming from advertising to help keep fares at reasonable levels during the initial rollout.

The government has been advocating more aggressively the use of electric vehicles to ensure a sustainable, environment-friendly and energy-efficient transportation system in the country.

Emissions from the transport sector currently represent 30 percent of all pollution in the country, and approximately 80 percent of air pollution in Metro Manila. A sizeable proportion of vehicle emissions are attributable to inefficient public transport, particularly from tricycles, jeepneys and buses.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras said on Thursday that the Asian Development Bank was preparing a loan and technical assistance package for the Philippine government to convert the gasoline-powered engines of tricycles into electric ones.

That package may be worth around $500-million according to Sohail Hasnie, principal energy specialist at the ADB.

Hasnie explained that the $500 million was the Manila-based lender’s estimate of the cost of converting 100,000 tricycles over the next three to four years so these would run on electricity.

Hasnie admitted that the ADB was still finalizing details of the planned package, for which it may have to tap concessional financing, even as it already started a pilot phase in Mandaluyong City with an initial 20 e-trikes.

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