Four-hundred and fifty smelly, noisy tuks tuks in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai will be replaced by zero emissions tuks tuks in a deal inked by the city’s Smart Mobility Alliance Network and Asian rideshare company Grab.
The electric versions of the LPG tuk tuk – the three-wheeled vehicles so common in Asian countries like Thailand and a major contributor to poor air quality and congestion – will be available for use by Grab customers via its smartphone app, much like Uber.
The private-public memorandum of understanding between Grab and the city of Chiang Mai, which has a goal to reduce private vehicles in the northern city by 35 per cent within five years, will also improve the earning potential of its drivers, thanks to the reduced maintenance costs associated with electric vehicles.
Users of the electric tuk tuk rideshare will also be able to gain insights on their reduced carbon footprint through the app, with each electric tuk tuk estimated to save 4.18 tonnes of greenhouse gas from being emitted per year compared to its fossil-fuelled equivalent.
“We are committed to invest in the smart mobility future of Thailand and bring about cleaner, safer and more efficient mobility solutions for Thais,” said Grab Thailand chief Tarin Thaniyavar in a statement.
“In partnership with the Chiang Mai government and industry partners, we want to actively contribute towards Chiang Mai Smart Mobility Alliance Network’s goal of a less-polluted and less-congested Chiang Mai city.
“With today’s launch of GrabTukTuk Electric in Chiang Mai – a first in Southeast Asia, we are not only making it easier for locals and tourists to book this well-loved public transportation mode through one Grab app, but also driving the adoption of electric transportation options in Thailand,” he said.
The electric tuktuk network has been hailed by Chiang Mai deputy governor Wirun Panthewee as a fine example of the city’s mission to become a “smart city”.
“As one of Thailand’s pilot smart cities, Chiang Mai has initiated several projects aimed at transforming city management in all spheres in response to the Smart City vision,” said Wirun.
“Over the past year, we have improved the infrastructure in the Nimmanhaemin area under the Smart Nimman project where the development of transportation has been our top priority, so as to increase the efficiency of public transportation, reduce air pollution, elevate the quality of life for the people and move towards Smart Mobility.
“The Chiang Mai Smart Mobility Alliance Network will thus be key to unlocking the full potential of both the public and private sectors to drive Chiang Mai forward and become one of the first smart cities in Thailand.”
Ways to reduce the air pollution, carbon emissions and congestion caused by the ever-present Asian form of public transport has been a topic under scrutiny in Australia also.
Last year, a student team from Melbourne’s RMIT developed a solar-powered tuk tuk that it has since been putting through its paces, first driving up the eastern seaboard of Australia as reported in The Driven last year.
RMIT’s “SolarTuk” has since travelled through Indonesia and is currently in Thailand, with plans to continue on to Myanmar and India before setting sail to the middle eastern country of Iran to travel through Europe.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model Y and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.