Government to adopt EV Road Map 2035 this year 

Yangyel Lhaden

In its effort to reduce vehicular emissions, the country aims to replace 70 percent of the vehicles with electric vehicles in the next 14 years, by 2035. The target is specified in the Electric Vehicle Road Map 2035.

The road map is in line with the Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS) for Surface Transport (2021-2050) policy, a 30-year strategy prioritising climate actions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The electric vehicle initiative is one of the components of the LEDS for Surface Transport to achieve realistic targets with EVs. LEDS for Surface Transport is a broad document which covers the entire transport sector. EV Project project manager Sonam Tobgye said that the road map was developed in 2019 and is being reviewed with data and technologies available to update with the latest version before adoption.

The EV road map aims to increase EV sales to 20 percent of the total vehicle sales in the short term- from 2021 to 2025 and increase it to 50 percent by 2030, and then to 70 percent by 2035 in the long term. It also aims to increase charging stations in the country.

The urgency

Bhutan has pledged to remain carbon neutral for all times to come during the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) in 2009. While the country’s main source of energy is from renewables, its energy consumption for the transportation sector is largely from fossil fuels.

The number of vehicles have also increased from 66,430 in 2012 to 119,636 by the end of last year. A car is estimated to release close to 16 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, according to an official working with the EV project.

Meanwhile, to encourage EV in public transport, a pilot project called “Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport Systems” was implemented in 2019, with the aim to replace 300 taxis by September of this year.

Sonam Tobgye said that EVs are undeniably the future of transportation and the country should embrace the new technology. However, the cost of EVs is still the main concern for members of the general public not opting for EVs. The price of EV cars ranges from Nu 1.5M to up to Nu 3M, depending on the brand.

He said the affordability of EVs will depend on the success of the pilot project. “With a successful pilot project result, we plan to approach the government to work out subsidies such as the one given to taxi drivers through the project for the general public to promote EVs.”

The project provides a 20 percent subsidy on the cost of the EV with a maximum ceiling of USD 5,500 (Nu 407,330) and a 70 percent loan facility. A taxi driver only has to pay 10 percent of the cost upfront.

According to LEDS for Surface Transport, the total subsidy required to support a national EV programme for the period 2020-2035 is estimated to be 36M USD. However, additional subsidies would be necessary to support adoption of heavy and medium commercial EV trucks beyond 2035. These subsidies would largely go towards purchase incentives for EVs and establishing a charging infrastructure.

Sonam Tobgye said that though the up-front cost of an EV is high, the cost of ownership is practically zero, as EVs do not require timely maintenance and the cost of the EV is paid back to owner over the years.

He said that a practical study the project carried out found that an EV which has travelled 1,340 kilometres consumed 193.31 Kilovolt per hour, costing about Nu 378, whereas a fossil fuel car which travelled the same distance incurred a cost of Nu 7,209. “The road map also recommends retro-fitting old fossil fuel vehicles to EVs.”

Currently, there are 233 EVs in the country, out of which 71 taxis from the project have arrived in the country in 10 dzongkhags.  Sonam Tobgye said that the project was expecting 114 EV taxis to arrive in the country by March.

Sonam Tobgye said that he was hopeful all EV taxis will arrive in the country before the project ends despite the lockdown in the county. “The delivery of taxis has resumed in recent months after a long pause from Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns in the region but the lockdown in the country is  hampering the supply chain.”

He said that he was hopeful the project could install EV charging stations throughout the county before project ends in September despite Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions in the country.