• Electric Mobility
  • EVs
  • Micromobility
  • Clean Transportation
  • Public Transit
  • Asia Pacific

Electrifying Motorcycle and Tricycle Taxi Services in the Philippines

Sagie Evbenata
Jun 16, 2023

Guidehouse Insights

Southeast Asia, with its large installed base of bicycles, motorcycles, scooters, and three-wheelers, holds great potential for the electrification of shared micromobility. The Philippines provides an interesting case study—it is the second-most populous ASEAN country, and most on-demand taxi services are provided by motorized tricycles.

Public transport is relatively undeveloped in the Philippines, and high levels of traffic congestion are common, especially in large and densely populated urban areas. As a result, the most popular modes of commuting are tricycles and buses (known as jeepneys). Of the 13.9 million registered motor vehicles in the country, over 8.4 million are tricycles or motorcycles, which are estimated to account for 45% of volatile organic compound emissions in the country. Tricycles have been in use in the Philippines since the end of World War II, when military motorcycles discarded by the Japanese were converted to provide passenger transportation. Today they are based on newer motorcycles, with a wheeled sidecar or center cab attached to accommodate two or three passengers. Open cab styles and “habal-habals” (motorcycles with rudimentary modifications to seat up to 14 passengers on exposed benches) are also common but are technically illegal, highlighting some of the regulatory challenges.

A motorized tricycle in the Philippines

Colorful motorized tricycle parked next to a building

(Source: Dan Lundberg, Flickr)

Major Challenges

Tricycles are usually powered by two-stroke engines due to their low cost, size, and ease of maintenance. However, they are noisy and polluting, emitting high levels of nitrogen dioxide and lead. While there is an opportunity for this aging fleet to be replaced with cleaner, safer, and modern electric three-wheel vehicles (E3WVs), electrification is a significant challenge. A new electric tricycle, or e-trike, equipped with a lithium-ion battery costs around $8,000. While their operating costs will be lower, it is unlikely that the savings would pay back the initial investment. Owner-operators tend to spend under $2,000 on a new motorcycle with a retrofitted sidecar or, more likely, will purchase a second-hand tricycle for a few hundred dollars. Passengers are particularly price sensitive, with fares often below 50 pesos ($0.90), and drivers earn less than $10 per day before operating expenses. Therefore, purchasing a new E2/3WV is unrealistic.

Opportunities for Electrification

Due to these financial challenges, most tricycles are unlikely to be replaced by e-trikes in the short term. However, the country’s major tourist resorts present opportunities for electrification. Companies such as Elaia Green Vehicles, ToJo Motors, and BEMAC have started e-trike deployments at eco-resorts, where tourists with more disposable income can pay higher fares to benefit from cleaner and quieter transportation. Additionally, a number of trends are likely to support the transition to E2/3WVs:

  • Declining Costs: The prices of E2/3WVs are rapidly decreasing, with a greater supply of low cost models and components from China and India, some of which use cheaper sealed lead-acid batteries.
  • Optimized Vehicle Designs: Modern e-trike designs are optimized for passenger occupancy, comfort, and safety. These vehicles can safely transport up to eight passengers, which will maximize drivers’ income.
  • Government Incentives: Policies and incentives targeting E2/3WVs are currently lacking but are likely to be implemented to address a major contributor to poor air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. This will especially incentivize the larger operators of motorcycle ride-hailing or food delivery fleets such as Grab, JoyRide, and toktok.
  • Technology and Business Model Innovations: Battery swapping will help with affordability, as will the increase of viable financing options. GerWeiss Motors, for example, has been pioneering a battery as a service model, making its vehicles more affordable, as well as implementing battery-swapping technology for its fleet on the island of Boracay.

While these trends address the specific challenges for clean transportation in the Philippines, similar developments are emerging in other Southeast Asian markets. To learn more about micromobility electrification trends in Asia Pacific and other world regions, check out Guidehouse Insights’ Market Data: Electric Two-Wheel Vehicles report. For information about jeepney electrification in the Philippines, see this blog post.