Photo Courtesy: Bhutan Hyundai Motors

Bhutan’s electric vehicle drive affected by COVID-19

Only 22 electric cars are on the way to the country

According to the Project Manager of Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System, Phub Gyeltshen, the importation and supply chain of electric vehicles (EVs) have been affected due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that it has been a year since the dealers have ordered the electric cars. He added that the whole world is reeling in from economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a severe port congestion at Shanghai.  Millions of containers are stacked at the port. EVs come from China and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole trading is down. The cars have been manufactured and it is there at the Shanghai port,” he said.

He said that the local car dealers have given assurance that their legal representatives are looking into the situation so that the EVs can be shipped soon.

“They (car dealers) are trying to make arrangements with the shipping agents and we are starting to see a few developments.  We have received a container a few days ago. So one car has arrived. It was a huge relief for us because this is an indication that things are moving,” he said.

Meanwhile, 22 EVs have been received in Singapore on friday. The shipment is estimated to take around 14 days to reach the Kolkata port in India, if there is no travel or shipping restrictions. Otherwise it will take around two to three months for the EVs to reach India.

Phub Gyeltshen said that many taxi drivers are frustrated with the long wait to replace their cars with EVs.

“The new development is we have done away with the tendering process.  We have allowed any automobile dealers to import any brands of EVs and sell to anyone, but if they want to sell to the particular taxi driver through availing the subsidies then we will control the quality. We have also developed a quality specification. We will check everything and if it qualifies we will give the subsidies.”

The project has already released 20 percent subsidy to buy EVs to 128 taxi drivers. An additional 65 taxi drivers have been selected last week through a screening process.

“They will choose the (EV) model and the dealers, and then we will release the subsidies accordingly,” the project manager said.

He added that the project fund covers 300 taxis. 107 taxis have yet to go through the selection process, which is likely to be held after a few months.

A taxi driver, Kinzang, says that he is waiting for the EVs to arrive in the country so that he can switch cars.

“I have been waiting for the arrival of the (electric) car for a year now, but due to the current situation (pandemic) it is getting delayed. The idea for switching (cars) is that it will help to save the fuel money and also help in reducing the harmful emission level and save the environment,” he said.

Another taxi driver Tashi said that the electric cars are the future and it is high time to switch to a new technology.

“I am convinced how these cars will benefit us as well as the country. So for better future it will be good for everyone to switch to electric cars. We are anxiously awaiting for the cars to arrive in the country,” he said.

Global Environment Facility supported the Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System project with USD 3 million with the target to reduce emission in the country.

As of now, there are five charging stations supported by JICA and one by Thunder Motors. All five charging stations are a Japanese type CHAdeMO that supports only a particular brand of EV.

The project also plans to set up 25 charging stations in six districts- Haa, Paro, Punakha, Phuentshogling, Wangdue and Thimphu.

The project aims to significantly reduce of the emission and dependency on fossil fuel. The EVs are issued with green number plates indicating that it is a zero emission car, and given a certain degree of recognition and ease in parking as well.

The move is a low-cost way of encouraging people to switch to EVs and to maintain the status of Bhutan as a carbon-negative country.

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