Two weeks after the communication ministry issued the notification, about 26 Taxi Operating Permit (TOP) holders in Thimphu have registered with the ministry’s Project Management Unit (PMU),  to procure electric car to replace their fossil fueled taxis.

There are 535 TOP holders in Thimphu.

An official with the PMU said that the project’s target was to roll out replacement of 300 taxis in Thimphu in three years. About 80 electric vehicle taxis would be rolled out by the end of this year.

“We plan to roll out 100 electric vehicles in the second year and then about 120 in the final year,” she said. “We have informed the taxi drivers during meetings before the ministry issued the notification in the media.”

The objective of Bhutan Sustainable Low-emission Urban Transport Systems is to facilitate the initial stage of low-carbon transition in Bhutan’s urban transport system as the preferred choice of mobility in Bhutan.

The official said that if there were not many TOP holders in Thimphu willing to register with the PMU for the procurement of the electric vehicle taxis, the unit might roll out in other dzongkhags like Paro and Punakha.

The ministry is the implementing partner for the project with total funding of USD 2.56M (million).

The ministry with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF)/UNDP will provide 20 percent subsidy or a maximum of USD 5,500 and loan with equity of 50 percent from the financial institutions.

She said that USD 5,500 was based on the cost of a Nissan’s electric car mentioned in the project document, 20 percent of Nu 1.8M calculates to USD 5,500.

The country currently has five electric vehicle taxis, all in Thimphu.

The official said that adequate charging stations would be installed in various places in six dzongkhags – Thimphu, Paro, Haa, Wangdue, Punakha, and Phuentsholing in Chukha.

It costs about Nu 3.3M to install a quick charging station, including the civil works and BPC charges.

There are five quick-charging stations in the country – two each in Thimphu and Paro, and one in Chuzom. Of the three types of charging stations, quick-charging station charges the vehicle within 30 minutes.

“Although it is expensive, the project will focus on installing quick charging stations since the project focuses on taxis which is a business and more time is less money for them,” she said.

The level 2 charging stations take about two to five hours to fully charge an electric vehicle. “We will evaluate in a few years’ time and might consider installing this in the future depending on the scenario,” she said.

Officials with the PMU will meet with an international consultant to revalidate specification for selection of electric vehicle and quick charging station  on February 19. After the finalization of the 14 criteria for selection of an electric vehicle, the car dealers would be called and then the ministry will float the tender.

“We will select at least two car dealers who fulfil the criteria to avoid monopolisation,” she said.

The UNDP will make the payment to the car dealers for the electric vehicles through the ministry. “A term of reference (ToR) would be drawn between the ministry and the car dealer,” she said.

Bhutan Taxi Association’s president, Rinzin Chophel, said that the taxi drivers were interested in procuring electric vehicle because it had benefits for individual, environment and the country.

However, many taxi drivers are reluctant to register because they are not sure how efficient the vehicle would prove to be.

Rinzin Chophel said that most of the taxi drivers said that they would go for it after a year’s observation.

Tshering Wangmo, a taxi driver, who has registered with the ministry, said that she registered for electric vehicle because of the benefits. “If we were to buy it by our self, it is expensive.”

Another TOP holder who has registered with the PMU, Tshencho Dorji, said that he chose to go for an electric vehicle because it was a zero-emission vehicle. “We don’t have to spend on the fuel. That is an advantage.”

He said that most of his friends were hesitant because they heard that its cost ranged between Nu 100,000 and Nu 300,000 to change the battery of an electric car.

Dechen Tshomo