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Video: Electric jeepneys hit Philippine streets

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(Read caption) A typical Philippine 'jeepney,' the most popular form of public transportation in the country.

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An electric-powered version of the Philppines' iconic, smog-belching minubuses hit the streets Tuesday, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia.

The new minibus, which was rolled out in Makati City, Manila's financial district, can carry 17 passengers and run about 75 miles on an eight-hour charge by plugging into an electrical outlet, according to the Manila Standard Today newspaper. They are intended to replace the jeepney, the flamboyantly decorated and notoriously dirty diesel-powered minibuses whose name is thought to be a portmanteau of "jeep" and "jitney."

According to Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN, the "e-jeepney" is at least partly powered by a biodigester, which produces combustible gas to power a generator that the vehicle plugs into.

The project is being spearheaded by Greenpeace, who says that the e-jeepney fleet will grow from a pilot set of six to 50. The group is working with the Makati City government, whose mayor, Jejomar Binay, said passengers would travel free during the first week of service.

In addition to reducing emissions, said to pose health risks to drivers and passengers, the e-jeepneys will increase the take-home pay of the drivers, who have to subsidize their own gasoline.

The major drawback to the new vehicles is the cost: differing reports give it a price tag of $11,000, $12,000, and $20,000, three to six times as much as a traditional jeepney. But Greenpeace says the new vehicles require less maintenance.

The other drawback, as reported by the Manila Standard Today, is that they don't work during floods, which are frequent in Manila.

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