The advent of electric vehicles, and the push for more fun and environmental means of transportation, has finally brought this world-class personal transporter to Philippine shores

 

MANILA, Philippines — Guided tours have always been a popular way to get an insider’s view of a tourist hot spot, vacation destination or historic city—and yet a lot of travelers look down upon those who would choose this option over going at it alone.

But lend this old vacation favorite a new and unique twist by offering “gliding” tours using a scooter-like Segway PT (Personal Transporter) through city streets and points of interest around a new city, and even the most “hard-core” of backpackers would change his mind. Segway city tours have grown in popularity all over Europe and the United States, and it’s not difficult to see why—they offer a great 360-degree orientation, lets you cover a lot of track without exerting that much effort, gives you heaps of unique and fascinating stories from your local guide, and you have the opportunity to ride one of the coolest machines in the world.

This particular application of the Segway—the world’s first self-balancing, zero emissions personal transportation vehicle—is exactly what Simply Moving Philippines, Inc. seeks to replicate here in the country. “When you’re in a bus or jeep, they’re noisy and you don’t see the entire expanse of the view. Imagine, instead of going around in Bohol or Boracay using a tricycle that can only fit so many people, you go around on a Segway. You can see and hear everything around you, and you have all your five senses working while touring the place,” shares Managing Director George Apacible.

A manual on operating a “gliding” tour, Apacible adds, was actually part of the package he and his business partner got upon franchising a Segway. “It’s quite specific—the pathways, how it should be like, the terrain, how to gear up, and even the experience of you registering, sitting down and watching the video. They made sure that safety is really a priority,” he shares.

 

Not Just A Toy

The technology behind the Segway PT consists of an intelligent network of sensors, mechanical assemblies and control systems that balance and move you on two wheels. The moment you step on a Segway, five micro-machined gyroscopes and two accelerometers sense the charging terrain and your body position at 100 times per second.

In plain English, this simply means the Segway moves to your preferred direction faster than your brain can think “left”.

As with any invention ahead of its time, the Segway PT is often misunderstood. Some might think of it as merely a “toy” for hobbyists who can afford to shell out R380,000 for the basic Segway i2 or R450,000 for the Segway x2 that has the size and muscle for off-road use, but the Segway PT is actually considered “serious transportation” for people on the move in today’s changing world.

 

Environmental Renewal

More than the novelty of riding around the city on a personal transporter whose movement follows the angle of your body, Apacible shares that the Segway was founded on inventor Dean Kamen’s vision of eco-friendly, short-distance transportation alternatives.

It’s as earth-friendly as one gets. A Segway’s lithium ion battery charges overnight for six to seven hours, and it only uses one kilowatt for a full charge. “That’s only R8. It’s a really cheap way to get around with regards to the per-kilometer basis. The battery lasts eight hours for 31 kilometers, and if you divide that R8 per 31 kilometer, you’re averaging centavos per charge. That’s how much electricity you’re consuming. The carbon footprint per vehicle, if a car would produce so much carbon dioxide in the air, is practically zero,” Apacible shares.

He adds that Segway’s environmental application in the local setting is really the company’s main goal when it brought the franchise to the Philippines last year. “We’re starting with the brand, and it’s a very known brand in the personal electronic mobile devices. So using that, the whole thing we want to be a leader in is promoting alternative sources of energy. And together with the e-trike (an ADB initiative), this would really benefit the environment a lot and change our way of transporting from one place to another without affecting the environment,” Apacible says.

In a price-sensitive market like the Philippines, it is not surprising that the main issue Apacible and his company is facing is the cost of the Segway. “It’s always the cost, especially if we’re selling it to individual buyers. Initially, our buyers are really hobbyists—these people spend R8 to R9 million on a car, and a Segway is chicken for them. But we’ve also pitched the product to resorts and the government, and they are actually quite interested,” he shares, adding that the local government unit in Boracay, for one, is promoting electric vehicles. “They’re trying to eradicate all the polluting tricycles, which is why they introduced the e-trikes there. They’ve reached out to us and we’re proposing, hopefully by end of September or October, to have a Boracay tour.”

Another good news, Apacible shares, is that PEZA wants his company to go on an “It’s more fun in the Philippines with the Segway” campaign. “What they want us to do is go to specific tourist destinations and use the Segway to get around. We start from the resort and then go around island-hopping, etc. using the Segway. Going around the country will definitely take on a new and exciting twist,” he says.

 

Published September 16, 2012 in the Business Agenda section of Manila Bulletin

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