Leaders of the largest transportation organization in the Philippines swept into Vancouver on Friday to check the progress of a local company’s efforts to revolutionize urban mass transportation in the island nation.
Members of Pasang Masda said they liked what they saw inside Pangea Motors’ 8,000-square-foot design center on Jefferson Street. Pangea, which designs and builds the Comet — a 16-passenger electric van — has an agreement to supply Pasang Masda with 10,000 of the vehicles over three years for use on the congested streets of Manila.
Pasang Masda officials said they’ve secured key approvals from government officials in their home country to begin modernizing the transportation group’s fleet of diesel urban transport vehicles, known as jeepneys. The training of drivers to operate the Comet is underway, they said, and they see the zero-emissions vehicle as a partial solution to global warming.
“It’s a start,” said Rogel Fernandez, national coordinator for Pasang Masda. He said the tens of thousands of jeepneys in Manila, home to some 14 million people, produce as much as 75 percent of the city’s air pollution.
Ken Montler, CEO of GET International, which markets the Comet for Pangea, and Pangea CEO Michael Hippert were on hand Friday to show the group from the Philippines how they’re preparing to roll out the Comet in the first quarter of 2014.
Montler said they’re a couple months behind schedule but that “in the world of cars,” that’s still relatively fast. Montler and Hippert are two of three investors in Pangea, and they are the U.S. half of a joint partnership in GET International with Philippine investors.
The group that visited their design center in Vancouver included Roberto Martin, national president of Pasang Masda.
Some components of the Comet will be built in Vancouver, others at a 70,000-square-foot factory in the Philippines. But Montler and Hippert say they expect to run a factory — starting at 50,000 square feet — building electric vehicles in Vancouver.
Montler said the hope is to have such a factory up and running in 2015. It would construct electric vehicles for the U.S. market, he said. Indeed, Montler 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.
Clackamas County officials in Oregon have talked to Pangea about building a plant there. But Montler said Friday they’ll grow in Vancouver. “We’re going to build here,” he said, noting the advantage of being in a state with no income tax. If all goes as planned, Pangea’s staff of 10 could grow to 300, including assembly line and other employees.
For now, Montler and Hippert are focused on a successful launch in the Philippines, which they view as a test site, where Comets would increasingly replace Manila’s jeepneys.
And Pangea and GET International are working on a transportation management system with multiple revenue streams and including fleet management services, prepaid fare cards and driver training. Each Comet has a video screen on the back wall. Additional revenue would come from ads targeted to the demographics of riders on individual routes.
Montler said that moving jeepney drivers — who suffer from diesel pollution and are paid very little — to Comets promises many benefits. “Our goal is to pay the drivers more than they’re making today,” he said.
“On top of that,” added Jay Meloto, director of community relations for GET International in the Philippines, “we’ll give them full benefits.”