EV taxi drivers demand more charging stations

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Except for the demand or the need for more charging stations, most Eletric Vehicle (EV) taxi drivers are happy with the choices they have made to go for an EV to use as a taxi.

Many EV taxi drivers say that the lack of charging infrastructure has caused a hindrance in their business and that they have to wait for a longer time getting their car charged or waiting for the charger to be free.

Chencho Wangchuk, who brought an EV to be used as a taxi in 2016, paid around Nu 990,000 for his EV.

Even if there was no subsidy back then when he brought his car, he said that he finds the EVs more profitable than fuel-driven vehicles as EVs do not neeed fuel and require fewer maintenance.

However, he added that not having enough public charging stations is an issue and challenge that he faces along with his other taxi driver friends.

He also mentioned that he cannot travel long distances as not many public charging stations are available along the road.

โ€œAt times, when other vehicles are getting charged at the charging stations, then we have to wait for quite a long time. The government while putting up public charging stations should also discuss these with the taxi drivers as they are the ones who will avail the services,โ€ Chencho Wangchuck said.

Similarly, Phub Dorjee, who brought his EV in July 2021, said not having enough charging stations has become a problem.

โ€œWhen we call the authorities requesting for more charging stations, they say they will look into the matter. Then days go by and nothing is done,โ€ he said.

โ€œWhile waiting for the EV to be charged, other taxis take the passengers, and then we have to go home without earning enough for the day,โ€ he said.

Meanwhile, Phub Dorjee said he would have gone for other vehicles if the rate of petrol was not that high.

โ€œHaving an EV only adds to our financial problems. I havenโ€™t been able to even pay my loan for almost two months. If the government does not put up more charging stations, then we might as well have to keep our cars in front of the banks,โ€ he added.

Sangay Tobgay, who has booked his EV is expecting the vehicle to reach here by the first week of February.

โ€œAs a person coming from a less economically gifted family, I was excited that the government would pay subsidy for the car. But after hearing stories from other EV taxi drivers, I wish to cancel my booking but the EV is already arriving. There are almost 60 EVs here and still the charging stations are not enough. If more EVs are brought it, then it will be difficult to adjust,โ€ he said.

He added that the EV dealers after selling their products do not care about to follow up on how the buyers are managing or if the charging stations are enough.

Sangay Dorji, who is the Tshogpa of the EV taxi drivers, said it is difficult to meet ends as they have to pay loan, insurance and other payments related to the EV.

He said that he cannot earn enough to save as most of his time is spent in charging his EV or waiting to get his EV charged.

Meanwhile, Sonam Tobgay, a 42-year-old taxi driver, finds no problem with EV or the public charging stations.

Sonam Tobgay, who brought an EV in December, 2021, said that earnings from the EVs are better than compared to other motor vehicles.

โ€œI used to pay around Nu 1,200 for petrol earlier, but with an EV, I have to spend nothing. Also, even if I save Nu 750 every day, then it is enough for me to pay the loan,โ€ he added.

He said he paid Nu 1.8mn for his EV, of which around Nu 370,000 came as a subsidy from the government.

Meanwhile, replacing fossil fuel taxis with EVs in the country is part of the initiative called the Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System that was started in 2019 to replace 300 fossil fuel taxis with EVs in the country.

The three-year project provided a 20% subsidy (USD 5,500) on the cost of the EVs. A taxi driver would have to pay 10% of the cost in advance and 70% of the cost can be facilitated as a loan from the banks.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information and Communications during the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) fourth ministerial conference on transport on December 16, 2021, highlighted the governmentโ€™s plans to set up charging stations for EVs in every district by the end of 2022. As of now, there are reportedly 33 charging stations in only six western districts of Thimphu, Paro, Phuentsholing, Punakha, Wangdue and Haa.

Sonam Yangden Tenzin from Thimphu