Yangyel Lhaden 

An additional 89 taxi drivers should apply for electric vehicles (EV) before the project comes to an end in September if the project to replace 300 taxis with electric vehicles should succeed.

A project called Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Transportation System started in 2019 to encourage and promote EV in the transportation sector.

According to EV project manager Sonam Tobgye, out of 515 taxi drivers who expressed interest in switching to EV taxis initially, 211 bookings of EV is confirmed.

Sonam Tobgye said that they are  hopeful that in six months more taxi drivers would be interested to purchase EVs with the progress in  installing charging stations in all the dzongkhags by the end of this year. The purchase of EV as well as charging stations is tax-free.

Sonam Tobgye said that the project had planned activities to carry out awareness and advocate the benefits of EV, but it could not be carried out due to the restrictions imposed by the lockdowns. “ We plan to carry out rigorous advocacy and awareness after the ongoing restriction is relaxed.”

Three EV dealers with the project said that they had procured additional EVs along with the orders from the project and would be able to supply EV to the project if taxi drivers are interested to switch to EV taxis.

The success of the project also depends on the timely arrival of EVs in the country.

There are  63 EV taxis on the road and about 100 EV taxis of Kuenphen Motors and Karjung Motors are expected to reach by end of April.

The proprietor of Kuenphen Motors, Thukten said that he could have supplied all the orders had the  supply chain not disrupted by the virus.

Kuenphen Motors has delivered about 40 EVs for the project so far.

Six EV of Bhutan Hyundai Motors have arrived in the country which is stranded in Phuntsholing.

Thukten said that procuring EV during the pandemic was challenging and after much struggle even when the EV arrived in the country taxi drivers couldn’t avail loan from Bank of Bhutan (BoB) due to credit information bureau of Bhutan (CIB) issues. “ About 10 taxi drivers couldn’t buy an EV because of CIB issues.”

He said that he couldn’t wait for his clients to clear their records before they could avail loan and sold EV to the next taxi driver client in line or to a private as he was running on loss when he couldn’t sell the car.

The project provides a 20 percent subsidy on the cost of the EV with a maximum ceiling of USD 5,500 and a 70 percent loan facility.

Chief Credit Officer with Bank of Bhutan Tashi Tenzin said that CIB was a normal process for anyone availing loans. “ There is requirement to mortgage while availing loan from the bank such as land and house but many taxi drivers doesn’t have a property.”

He said that the bank has signed memorandum of understanding with the government to replace mortgage requirement with four co-guarantor among taxi drivers wanting to buy EVs. “ For one client there are three guarantors and all of their CIB needs to be clear to avail loan.”

He said that co-guarantor was to ensure they could track taxi drivers. “ About 20 taxi drivers did not qualify for the loan because they did not meet the requirement with CIB issues.”

BoB has released about Nu 92M loan to 55 taxi drivers for the project so far, he added.

Sonam Tobgye said that the issue with taxi drivers facing difficulty with loans was resolved.

He said PD holders would no longer face difficulty in availing loans from BoB as the project introduced a system where only after BoB screened eligibility of clients for loan, the subsidy was released and  the clients booking for EV was accepted.