The Research and Technology Ministry rolled out a prototype of an electric minibus on Tuesday that the government hoped would be used for public transportation.
The 17-seat vehicle, developed by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), is touted as being 50 percent cheaper to run than gasoline-powered public minibuses, or angkot , and 70 percent cheaper to service.
Gusti Muhammad Hatta, the technology minister, said the minibus was still experimental but talks were being held with government research bodies about mass production. Once it hit the road, he added, “this minibus will be very efficient and environmentally friendly.”
Hatta was among several officials who participated in a test drive of the vehicle. Others included Transportation Minister E.E. Mangindaan and Rudi Rubiandini, the deputy energy minister.
“This is a milestone for the Indonesian people,” Rudi said. “We’ve always been restricted to vehicles that run on gasoline, diesel or gas, but now we have one that runs on electricity.”
He added that the minibus, which cost Rp 1.5 billion ($159,000) to develop and build, was expected to be deployed as public transportation initially in Jakarta because the electricity supply in the capital was better than elsewhere in the country.
He said his ministry was building recharging stations, the Industry Ministry would be responsible for the mass production of the vehicle and the Transportation Ministry would be the first buyer.
“So this will be a joint effort between various ministries,” he said.
The unveiling of the minibus came less than a week after researchers from LIPI and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) introduced two prototypes of an electric car they claimed could travel 150 kilometers on a single charge.
Agus Hoetman, an adviser to Gusti, said at the unveiling in Jakarta last Thursday that 150 kilometers was farther than the 60 to 145 kilometers currently available from electric cars with a top speed of less than 100 kilometers an hour.
Hatta previously said the government was earmarking Rp 100 billion for the development of an electric car built by four state universities. He said the universities were expected to present their designs soon, before production could begin sometime in 2014.