I lived in Kathmandu for several weeks before I spotted public transportation. The white taxis and micro buses were invisible to me. Maybe they just faded into the background behind the colour and confusion of everything else. Maybe my eyes were still trained to see the bright colours of Filipino jeepneys. I’m not sure. But slowly they came into focus; there they were: plain, white, rickety and very small. The idea of a Jeepney ride always seemed more fun than it actually was, as Jeepneys face inwards and there’s no view. But their colour baits you, which is actually the whole idea behind their outrageous designs. By contrast, the idea of riding in a Kathmandu microbus seems no fun at all. I can’t imagine actually cramming myself into one. Where would I put my legs? My head would scrape the ceiling.
It wasn’t until much later that I spotted the microbuses were all electric vehicles or EVs. It was a shocking revelation in a city that pays little attention to pollution or lead levels. It was later still that I learnt that EV microbuses were a USAID-supported innovation from a while back….of course. Despite the rust and hanging exhaust pipes they are still on the road. They may be the Jeepney’s poor cousin, but whatever would Kathmandu pollution levels be like if they belched carbon too?