Govt questioned on unhappy taxi drivers driving electric vehicles

During the question-hour session of National Assembly held yesterday, the MP of Bumdeling-Jamkhar, Dupthob, questioned the government on a recent appeal letter sent to the Prime Minster by a group of electric vehicle (EV) owners. He said that letter expressed their dissatisfaction on use of electric vehicles as taxis, and the drivers are desperately seeking for an intervention by the government

Responding to the questions, the Minster for Information and Communications, D.N Dhungyel, said the first matter should first be sorted out with the EV dealers, and after which they should approach the government. However, Lyonpo D.N Dhungyel said that four electric vehicle taxi drivers have written an appeal letter addressed to the Prime Minister. He said the government would require the time to study the issue.

The main complaint in the appeal letter was that the electric vehicles once charged can run 50 kms only, and not 170 kms. It also states that it takes four hours to charge the vehicle. “Whether it is true or not, we should discuss with the dealers, and the ministry will work on it. If it is true we should do something to help these taxi drivers,” the Information and Communications Minister said.

“When we buy goods, we should have an agreement between the buyers and sellers, if there is agreement then it may contain terms and conditions of the electric vehicle,” Lyonpo said, adding

“the government has no clear knowledge on whether EV taxi drivers have discussed with the dealers or not on the dissatisfaction of EVs.”

MP of Khamey-Lunana, Pema Drukpa, asked for clarification on the EV, mobile and laptop batteries disposal as all of them contains harmful amounts of Lithium.  He said it was not only EV batteries but also all mobile and laptops that had the same batteries.

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said there has not been much concern by the people on the disposal of mobile phone and laptop batteries. He it is important for Bhutan to work on such problems from the start, as Bhutan has only 85 EVs and 6 EVs are being used as taxis.

MP of Nubi- Tangsibji, Nidup Zangpo, questioned the issuance of taxi license to those taxi drivers using the EV taxis. He added, “My doubt is, if EVs are permitted to be used as taxis, then what is difference between an EV and an ordinary taxi? The purpose is same, it is used to pick up and drop off people.”

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel informed the House that it is not true that the taxi drivers have to buy only EVs. He said the choice is up to the drivers, whether they want to buy an EV or an ordinary car to replace their out-of-condition taxis.

Finance Minister, Namgay Dorji, said that the fossil fuel vehicles are being taxed to curb the rupee shortage problem. He added, “Rupee shortage arises mainly due to importing of the fuel into the country.”

As of December 2014, Thimphu region saw 2,707 taxis compared to 3,508 in 2013. Phuentsholing region has 1,192 in 2014, decreased from 1,475 in 2013.

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