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DIRTY ENGINES

TAXIS OF THE DEVELOPING WORLD

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Carbureted two-stroke engines are typically used to power ‘two-wheelers’ and ‘three-wheelers’ in developing countries, with a particular concentration across Asia, and increasingly Africa and Latin America. These vehicles dominate the market because:

• They are simple in construction, rugged, and can be repaired almost indefinitely

• They are low cost to own and operate

• They have a very high power-to-weight ratio. This means they can haul large loads and maintain their speed and power.

While reducing air pollution has been a longstanding policy priority of many Asian governments, sadly only a handful have implemented significant measures. The replacement of aging, heavy-polluting vehicles remains challenging. Moreover, the political implications of meaningful action can be daunting for two reasons. First, most drivers are poor, or at the ‘base of the economic pyramid’ and their vehicles represent their sole means of income generation. Second, the service they provide is a critical – and often the only affordable – means of transportation for millions of other poor people.

Unique Philippines Trike

For example, in the Philippines, the tricycle is the most common mode of transportation. Nearly 84% of the country’s population depends on the tricycle transport sector. Of the approximately 1.5 million registered tricycles in the Philippines, perhaps 70% have polluting two-stroke engines. In many Philippine cities, emissions from tricycles are the primary cause of air pollution, contributing to a multitude of related environmental, health and economic problems.

The Philippines tricycle pictured here consists of a motorcycle with an attached side car and comes in a variety of distinctively customized configurations, shapes and sizes. Some configurations are unique to a neighborhood or geographic region, and others are simply branded by the individual owner. The Philippine tricycle has become as much a sign of personal expression as it has a symbol of national identity. Tricycles will be part of the Filipino transport system for decades to come; the pollution challenge of tricycles is a business opportunity.

What makes these vehicles so dirty? >>