Fancy zipping around town in an awesome all-electric Tesla? Blue Bird Group, always the innovator in taxi services here, has already launched its first electric cars. It plans to have 200 on the road by next year and 2,000 by 2025, as Director Andre Djokosoetono told Ajeng G. Anindita.
It’s no secret that Jakarta’s notorious traffic congestion has increased massively in recent years. And with all those extra vehicles have come negative impacts on the environment and our health due to the increased consumption of fossil fuels and creation of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
A grim reality that most Jakarta people have to face in their day-to-day lives is having to put up with heavy traffic for long, long hours. It’s no wonder that so many of us are prone to tiredness and ill health. Moving towards sustainable transportation is one of the most effective ways to at least minimise the effects and preserve the planet as a place in which to live for the next generations. To quote Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space: “The Earth doesn’t need us, we need the Earth.”
Blue Bird Group, the largest listed and most admired taxi cab operator in Indonesia, launched its first electric taxi fleet on Monday, April 22, which also happened to be Earth Day. The fleet initially consists of 25 BYD e6 A/T vehicles for regular Blue Bird taxi services and five Tesla Model X 75D A/T cars for the company’s premium Silver Bird services.
All-electric vehicles are deemed to be the most effective alternatives to regular fuel-based cars, as they will not cause tailpipe emissions that results from fuel combustion in a conventional car’s engine. Since the company’s inception in 2003, Tesla’s mission has been to accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable energy future. Meantime, BYD describes itself as “a high-tech company devoted to technological innovations for a better life”.
How did the move into electric cars begin for Blue Bird? Says Director Andre Djokosoetono in an exclusive interview at the company’s head office in Mampang, south Jakarta: “It came about in the first place through a discussion with Ignasius Jonan (Indonesia’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources). After that meeting, my team and I talked about the possibilities of introducing electric cars as one of Blue Bird’s products. This project is obviously a major milestone for the company.
It’s the first ever electric taxi fleet in the country, as listed in the records of MURI (Indonesia World Records Museum).
“As a result of doing some extensive research and thorough testing, we chose BYD and Tesla models as they are very suitable for the purposes of public transport, especially for taxi cabs. And these two brands have proven themselves to be the best in their industry.”
China’s BYD is a high-tech company that specialises in clean energy, with a mission to help reduce the world’s reliance on petroleum and dedicated to providing zero-emission energy solutions. BYD stands for “Build Your Dreams”. The company started off in 1995 as a manufacturer of batteries for cellphones and digital cameras. Now the company is the world’s largest electric vehicle maker in terms of units sold. It has sold as many as 113,000 plug-in electric vehicles globally and it has nearly 40,000 electric buses in service around the world.
Meanwhile, Tesla is a state-of-the-art automotive and energy-based company based in Palo Alto, California. It was founded in 2003 by engineers Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning under the name Tesla Motors, as a tribute to inventor and futurist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943).
Elon Musk, who came to the fore as a co-founder of PayPal, joined Tesla as its Chairman in 2004. He has a reported net worth of US$22.3 billion and is listed by Forbes as the 40th-richest person in the world. His goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the risk of human extinction by establishing a colony on Mars.
“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy through increasingly affordable electric vehicles and renewable energy generation and storage systems,” states the company on its website. Aside from cars, the company also makes solar panels that produce renewable, clean energy.
Becoming available to the public this month (June), Blue Bird’s electric taxis will charge the same fares as any of its taxis. The taxi operator also collaborates with PLN to provide charging stations in its pools, enabling the company’s drivers to easily charge their cars. A full charge takes about two hours, giving the cars a range of 300 km.
Laughs Djokosoetono: “I guess the people who are most excited about the charging stations are the drivers, as they don’t have to wait in long lines again in public gas stations. We’re confident that the 30 electric taxis we are starting with will be a great start in the history of sustainable transportation in Indonesia. We don’t just aim to improve the quality of service and comfort of our customers, but it is also part of Blue Bird’s commitment to preserve the environment, especially to increase the air quality in Jakarta.”
If Blue Bird sticks to its plan, the company will eliminate some 434,095 kg of CO2 emissions, or fuel consumption of 1,898,182 litres; and the addition of 2000 units of electric cars in 2020-25 will eliminate 21,704,760 kg of CO2 emissions, equivalent to fuel consumption of 94,909,091 litres.
“We see electric vehicles as the future of transportation,” says Djokosoetono. “Other countries have been moving in this direction for years, so it’s about time Indonesia started doing it too.” Talking about sustainability as a lifestyle, he thinks that Indonesians are ready to use electric vehicles as part of their day-to-day lives, whether it’s for personal use or for public transport. “I guess it is really now up to the government to set the regulations and to create clear rules about electric vehicles and transportation providers like us, to open access to the new technology to the whole of society.”
One of the most important aspects of Blue Bird’s electric car initiative is its One Ride One Seed programme, set up in collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Jagha Bumi. In this programme, Blue Bird and Silver Bird riders will contribute to the numbers of trees planted in the Ciliwung River area and also in the greater area of Jakarta. “One Ride One Seed will start in June, and we are targeting to plant more than 2,000 trees,” says Djokosoetono.
Recently, Blue Bird has also worked together with WWF in Bali to help reduce the problem of single-use plastics. All Blue Bird Bali staff members, for example, have eliminated the use of plastic cups and bottles in favour of carrying around tumblers. Blue Bird has also worked with Danone-Aqua to support the environment. The two companies gathered up all of the plastic bottles to be found in the Blue Bird taxi pools and gave them to Koperasi Pemulung Berdaya Tangerang Selatan, Danone-Aqua’s official waste management partner, to be recycled.
At the end of the interview, Djokosoetono expresses his thoughts and views on what we can do to fight the climate change crisis that’s happening to the world in real time. “The key is to start right now,” he declares. “We need to realise that we are currently living in an ecological crisis, and as human beings who care about the planet we need to become a part of the solution. Each person is responsible in his or her own way for their carbon footprint, and one small step in the right direction by each of us will impact the whole world.”