A Vancouver-based company aiming to replace pollution-spewing urban mass transportation with zero-emission electric vehicles says it's secured a new deal in the Philippines that could generate up to 300 jobs locally as manufacturing ramps up.
Pangea Motors, which designs and builds the Comet, a 16-passenger electric van, will supply 10,000 of the vehicles for use on the congested streets of Manila under an agreement the company inked with transportation group Pasang Masda.
Pangea will ship the 10,000 Comets over three years, with about 200 heading out in the first quarter of 2014, said Ken Montler, CEO of GET International, which is marketing the Comet for Pangea.
Montler is part of a larger venture, launched earlier this year, that seeks to achieve environmental, social and financial goals by making electric vehicles a larger part of the transportation fleets of multiple countries.
Montler, Pangea CEO Michael Hippert and their partners see the Philippines as a test site, where Comets would eventually replace Manila's tens of thousands of diesel urban transport vehicles, known as jeepneys.
They say the Comets, costing about $20,000 to $30,000 apiece, would help curb air pollution in the city of 14 million residents and improve the lives of jeepney drivers. Montler declined to divulge the financial details of the agreement with Pasang Masda, which he described as the largest transportation organization in the Philippines.
But profitability isn't far off, he said, and the project in the Philippines is only a start. "It's a global plan," Montler said.
'Mobile Internet cafe'
Montler and Hippert are two of three investors in Pangea. And they form the U.S. half of a joint partnership in GET International with Philippine investors.
Montler, Hippert and others traveled to the Philippines in September, seeking to deepen business arrangements there. Montler, who was there for about three months, said the trip exceeded expectations. They spent part of that time demonstrating a Comet designed and manufactured in Vancouver.
On top of the deal to ship 10,000 Comets to Pasang Masda, Pangea and GET leaders garnered commitments to ship about 300 of the vehicles to other jeepney owners. They also struck a deal to deploy Comets along a route between two shopping malls in Manila, Montler said.
"You had to have malls agree to put in charging stations," he said, "and we've done all of that." More routes are in the offing.
And Pangea and GET hope to implement a transportation management system, with multiple revenue streams. That system includes fleet management services, prepaid fare cars and driver training. Each Comet is equipped with a video screen on the back wall. Additional revenue would be generated from the sale of ads targeted to the demographics of riders on individual routes.
"We'll have a mobile Internet cafe in the vehicle," Montler said.
All design of the Comet occurs at Pangea's 8,000-square-foot space in downtown Vancouver. About 10 designers and engineers work there. For now, some components of the Comet will be built in Vancouver, others at a 70,000-square-foot factory in the Philippines. Pangea has locked up 1,200 square feet of interim space in Vancouver for building parts of the Comet.
But the company expects to run a factory — 70,000 to 100,000 square feet — building complete cars in Vancouver, Montler said.
In two years, he said, Pangea's staff of 10 could grow to 300, including assembly line and other employees. Although Clackamas County officials in Oregon are talking to Pangea about building its factory there, Montler said, the company's preference is to expand in Vancouver.
The Seattle native is no stranger to the electric-vehicle business. He and a group of investors launched Global Electric Motor Cars in 1998, a company that was later acquired by Daimler Chrysler. Global Electric remains in operation, Montler said.
He sees the Comet addressing environmental, health and social problems. For example, jeepney drivers who switch to Comets will benefit from the vehicles' durability and zero emissions, Montler said. And drivers who now make an average of about $10 per day will increase their income, including making at least minimum wage and receiving benefits under the system planned by Pangea and GET.
Montler also sees the Comet evolving into electric delivery trucks, school buses and other vehicles to serve urban metro areas in parts of the U.S. and other countries. Other metro areas elsewhere in the world "want to create jobs," Montler said, "they want to grapple with climate change and congestion."