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Jason Strother

MANILA — Sometimes to get around Manila, you need to take a trike, otherwise known as a motorcycle with a sidecar. The drivers weave around the traffic and up onto sidewalks. Trikes are noisy and emit a lot of exhaust too.

But not the one Alfredo Forelo drives. A few months ago, the 38-year-old traded in his old one for a new, battery-powered e-trike. It holds up to eight passengers and is so quiet that it can hardly be heard.

On the old tricycles, he used to get sick a lot, he says — colds, flu, asthma. But not anymore. And the e-trikes are easier to drive and more comfortable than the old ones.

At the moment, there are only about 15 of them on the streets of Manila. But the Asia Development Bank (ADB) is anticipating a fleet of 100,000 within the next five years.

Sohail Hasnie, head of the bank's e-trike program, says the benefits of the new bikes will be felt across the board.

"The Philippine government spends close to $8 billion to $10 billion on importing oil as a net energy importer," Hasnie says. "And of course there are a lot of inefficient ways these get consumed by tricycle drivers who do not really have much of a choice in terms of new technology. If you are a pedestrian, of course you like riding around in something that is safe, comfortable and clean. E-trikes provide all those solutions in a single goal."

Hasnie estimates that e-trikes will offset much of the nearly four tons of carbon dioxide produced by gas-powered trikes in Manila each year.

Not universally hailed

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