20 July 2009
An amazing vehicle can be seen driving around the streets of the Philippines. Believe it or not its a taxi made from bamboo. With its woven bamboo panels and seats, there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
The commonest and cheapest way of getting around in the Philippines is by habal-habal, a motorcycle taxi that is far from safe. It's modified to carry as many as 5 passengers, often under a make-shift canopy. Inherently unstable, it's likely to topple over if the driver comes to a sudden halt. It's also polluting. So, Rustico Balderia, mayor of the small town of Tabontabon in the Philippines has come up with a much green and safer alternative - the bamboo taxi, or Toti Eco as it is known locally. He knew he had to design a vehicle that could compete with the habal-habal, so his bamboo taxi is cheap, incredibly fuel-efficient, environmental friendly and safe. It's also made by a group of school leavers in the town.
So how do you construct a taxi from bamboo? Bamboo is surprising strong, in fact its tensile strength is greater than that of steel, so when woven, the bamboo sheets can replace steel panels. Obviously the chasis is still steel, but there are plans to replace that too in future models.
Bamboo is a common building material in the Philippines and other Asian countries, where it is used to the construction of buildings, flooring, scaffolding, piping and much more. Being a fast-growing plant, bamboo is both a ustainable and carbon neutral material.
To make the taxis even greener, the engine runs on coco-biodiesel and is incredibly fuel efficient, being able to travel for up to 8 hours on a gallon of fuel. The engine's quite powerful too, and is able to cope with the steep roads in the region.
So far there are two models, the Eco 1 which seats 20 people and the Eco 2, a smaller taxi for 8. With its win-win design, there are sure to be similar models appearing all around the world.