E-trike hailing app starts test run in UP Diliman

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THE government is promoting energy efficiency and clean technologies in the transport sector through the use of electric tricycles (e-trikes). — HANDOUT

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

A MOBILE app-based electric tricycle (e-trike) ride-sharing system is currently being tested at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, and will soon be deployed in Tuguegarao City.

The mobile app is called “Hatid,” said Lew Andrew R. Tria, an associate professor at UP Diliman’s Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute. He also heads the Intelligent Electric Transportation Network (IntElect) project financed by the Department of Science and Technology (DoST).

The app, which was made available starting Dec. 9 to UP Diliman administrative personnel as “beta testers,” was developed as part of the IntElect project.

The IntElect is basically a network of electric vehicles and charging stations working together to reduce energy use in small communities such as UP-Diliman, Mr. Tria told BusinessWorld in a telephone interview on Dec. 12.

After the test run within the month, the system would be brought to a government center in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan Province. Government employees there should be able to book trips to locations within the area, similar to Grab and Angkas.

“The DoST chose the regional government center in Tuguegarao City as our partner. The Cagayan State University is also within that area,” Mr. Tria said.

“The IntElect project has three components. The first component is the hardware that includes the trikes and the charging infrastructure; second is the app with artificial intelligence (AI); and third is the deployment in Tuguegarao City,” he added.

The IntElect team, which consists of UP scientists and IT experts, is also looking at the business side of this newly developed system.

“If possible, we could commercially launch it here in Diliman,” Mr. Tria said, adding they will have to come up with a business plan before September 2020.

“We will see if we will launch it as a start-up or look for a third-party operator. We will look at the possible business models,” he said.

At present, there is one fast-charging station at UP Diliman for the 10 e-trike units donated by the Department of Energy (DoE) last June. It takes 30 minutes to fast-charge a five-passenger DoE e-trike model, which can run up to 60 kilometers. “If loaded, the range will be lower,” Mr. Tria said.

The IntElect team plans to set up four fast-charging stations at the regional government center in Tuguegarao City, which also received 10 e-trike units from the DoE.

Some of the units at UP Diliman may be sent to Tuguegarao City after the test run, Mr. Tria said.

In 2012, during the tenure of former President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, the National Economic and Development Authority Board approved the DoE-initiated e-trike project with the goal of encouraging energy efficiency and clean technology in the transportation sector.

The DoE partnered with the Asian Development Bank and the Clean Technology Fund to implement the project.

The project was initially designed for the use of local government units (LGUs); but because of their cost and the process involved in the procurement, LGUs were reluctant to buy the vehicles.

In 2017, current officials of the DoE decided to roll out 3,000 e-trikes out of the original 100,000, lowering the project cost to P1.73 billion from P21.672 billion.