Yangyel Lhaden 

The first electric bus launched yesterday will hit the Thimphu roads next week. 

Director of City Bus Services (CBS) Pasang Tshering said, “The electric bus will enter service along the trunk route between Babesa and Dangrina after a round of initial evaluation and staff training.”  

The 46-seater electric bus has 28 seats and 18 standing with automatic gear. 

Other features include USB port on the passenger’s seat, driver’s safety compartment, CCTV cameras with a monitor screen in front of driver’s seat, a button for artificial vehicle sound, hammers near windows to break the window glass in case of an emergency, and ramp for wheelchairs, among others. 

The electric bus is part of the project—Promoting Green Electric Mobility for Urban Transport in Bhutan and wider Hindu Kush Himalaya—implemented through a partnership between United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Thimphu City Council and CBS.  

The project is funded by Austrian Federal Ministry of Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs. They funded a “Skywell” brand electric bus worth Nu 14.85 million, and three charging stations worth about Nu 4.4 million to CBS for public transport. 

For the three charging stations, Bhutan Power Cooperation funded three transformers free of cost.

Thimphu Thrompon Ugyen Dorji said that the collaborative support from relevant agencies has contributed to achieving the project goals. “The promotion of public transport, that too with inclusive electric bus, is aimed at reducing pollution, traffic congestion, and gain economic benefits.”

Cabinet Secretary Kesang Deki said that the bus may not make a big change but making a start was necessary.

“The electric bus will not only reduce carbon footprint but in terms of economic sense it will be beneficial because fossil fuel consumption is one of the biggest imports in our country,” Kesang Deki said.”When we import, we have to use foreign currency mainly INR, and if we can in any way contribute to sustainability and self-reliance, I think this is one way that we can do it.” 

The city buses make about seven trips along the trunk route in a day. “ On a single full charge, electric bus is expected to give a 160-kilometre range for normal day’s operation,” Pasang Tshering said. The charging stations are in the CBS compound, Dangrina, and Babesa.

Electric buses are uniquely suited to Bhutan, where most of the nation’s electricity is generated from hydropower, Pasang Tshering said. “Using this energy to charge the electric bus batteries is effectively using the power of the rivers to transport people.”

With the electric bus, there are 60 city buses with CBS and CBS is going to charge the same fare as fossil fuel city buses for the electric bus.