130 additional EV taxis to hit the road by September

As per the government’s work plan, charging infrastructures will be built across all 20 districts by the end of 2022

With around 170 Electric Vehicles (EVs) or EV taxis already spread over 17 districts, the remaining 130, which are on the way, are supposed to hit the road by September.

This was divulged by the EV Project Manager, Sonam Tobgye, who heads the “Bhutan Sustainable Low Emissions Urban Transport System” project that aims to replace 300 fossil-fueled taxis with EV taxis by the end of September this year.

As per the government’s work plan, charging infrastructures will be built across all 20 districts by the end of 2022. There are 20 DC and 19 AC chargers already installed in seven districts. The move is aimed at expanding and updating existing infrastructure and improving the reliability and predictability of longer journeys for EV drivers.

Meanwhile, the project offers a taxi driver, who wants to switch over to an EV taxi, a 70% loan facility from a financial institution in addition to a 20% discount on the cost of the EV, up to a maximum of USD 5,500 (Nu 407,330). Only 10% of the total fee must be paid upfront by the taxi driver.

“We have already dispersed subsidies for 281 EVs and the remaining 19 will be done soon,” Sonam Tobgye said.

The government is co-financing with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to provide subsidies to taxi drivers and build a charging infrastructure network.

And while drivers of EVs don’t have to pay a fee to charge their EV at the charging stations, Sonam Tobgye said, “Even if they pay the fee, it wouldn’t cost much. For instance, it would barely cost Nu 39-89 depending on the battery size of the vehicle to get a 100% charge.”

He added that the electricity bills of the charging stations are currently paid by the Ministry of Information and Communications. The electricity bill for the charging stations in seven districts comes to around Nu 250,000 to Nu 300,000 per month.

And of the numerous challenges faced by the project, especially convincing the people to switch to EVs was the main one.

“People were really skeptical about the EVs at the beginning,” Sonam Tobgye said.

However, regular advocacy programs from the project and the recent fluctuations in fuel prices have made people realize the advantages of driving EVs and there is, therefore, an overwhelming interest and orders for EVs from not only taxi drivers, but also from tour operators, and private and government employees.

Sonam Tobgye added that there are many things lined up to make the project a success.

“Now with the reopening of tourism, we are planning to open EV counters in a few Dzongkhags like Paro and Phuentsholing, where tourists can directly avail cab services and enjoy the luxury and comfort as EVs are much more comfortable,” said the project manager.

Another reason for people being skeptical of availing of EVs is because there are not many trained workers at the workshops to repair the EVs.  

“Therefore, labor ministry has already developed an EV curriculum for technicians and mechanics, and will be rolled out through the TTIs soon,” Sonam Tobgye said.

According to the President of the Taxis Association of Bhutan, Rinzin Chophel, EV taxis are earning much more than taxis running on fossil fuel.

He added that after paying the monthly installments to the banks, EV taxi drivers earn around Nu 30,000 to Nu 40,000 per month. 

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu