The “tuktuk” and climate... How does that three wheel vehicle affect the environment?

Writer: Salma Arafa - Translator: Amira Gawdat
السبت 25 مايو 2024 | 11:21 مساءً

Over the past two decades, the three-wheeled tuktuk vehicles have acquired a significant share of the transportation market in a number of countries in the Arab world. This small vehicle can reach narrow streets, and its cost is usually lower compared to taxis.

There are several different stories indicating the origin of the “tuktuk”. One of which dates back to Germany in the 1880s, and another indicating its invention in Italy after World War II, but what is certain is that it arrived in India for the first time in the late 1950s, and then set off from there to different regions in the world.

A polluting means

One of the most prominent countries where tuktuk became widespread was Egypt, where it arrived in 2005, but year after year its negative effects began to appear in public.

In a study published by the “Engineering Research Journal”, researchers pointed out the large quantities of pollutants that are released into the atmosphere as a result of the operation of tuktuks that operate with a two-stroke engine that does not allow the fuel to be fully combusted.

There is another danger threatening tuktuk passengers, which is higher amounts of air pollutants “PM 2.5” and “PM 10” as a result of the lack of windows.

According to the results of the study, when tuktuks are replaced by other vehicles, the amounts of various pollutants, including carbon dioxide, decrease by more than 70%.

Speaking to “Green in Arabic”, Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed, a professor in the department of transportation engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, Benha University in Egypt, and a participant in the previous study, said that all means operate on fuel produce a group of pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfate oxides. . Since the tuktuk's combustion machine is a primitive machine, the resulting pollution rates are very high.

The Egyptian expert points out that the “tuktuk” is the worst environmental means, compared to all other means, including the private car, especially since the number of its passengers is limited to a limited number, and therefore the average amount of pollution resulting from each person’s transportation is high.

The secret of turnout

According to his opinion, there are several reasons that led to the spread of “tuktuks,” including that it is the least expensive means for those who do not find a job opportunity and want to buy a vehicle to work on. It is also the available means in popular areas with narrow streets, as well as in rural areas that lack transportation, adding that "the passenger does not see the issue from an environmental perspective."

He continues by saying that the levels of pollution resulting from the operation of tuktuks and other vehicles contribute to the phenomenon of climate change.

An environmentally friendly "Tuktuk"

Over the past years, many experiments have emerged to transform the “tuktuk” into an environmentally friendly vehicle powered by electric power. These attempts are partly encouraged by the Egyptian expert as it will reduce the percentage of pollutants to the lowest possible degree, but the problem of the limited number of passengers will remain, thus contributing to the traffic congestion crisis.

He continued, "If we are able to produce an electric means of transportation that can accommodate at least 8 passengers, we will have addressed the issue in more than one aspect."

New challenges

According to the “Down to Earth'' website, tuktuks account for more than 80% of the electric transportation market in India, but this huge percentage hides many challenges. The most important of which is those related to documenting vehicles in official papers.

In 2021, the number of electric tuktuks sold by unlicensed parties reached 10,000 tuktuks per month, compared to up to 2,000 tuktuks sold by licensed parties.

The matter involves not only an official controversy, but also an environmental one. Unlicensed electric vehicles are often of poor quality and rely on lead-acid batteries that must be changed periodically, and are disposed of in environmentally unsafe ways.