… the previous completion deadline was December 2022

YK Poudel  

While electric vehicle drivers complain about not having enough charging stations and their locations, the completion of charging stations in 14 dzongkhags has been delayed by three months.

Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority  (BCTA) under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport (MoIT) was supposed to complete the Electric Vehicle Charging Stations (EVCS) construction project in 14 dzongkhags by the end of December 2022.

The presence of charging stations in populated areas clogs the roads and parking lots as it takes an hour at the maximum to get fully charged with a fast charger, according to EV drivers.

According to RSTA’s annual report 2022, charging stations are supposed to start this year.

A taxi driver, Kinga Rabten said that a comprehensive strategy for EV procurement in the nation was a good idea to solve the issue of fuel price.

“With the increase in fuel prices over time, a successful transition to an EV scenario will ensure that Bhutan is more resilient to fuel supply shocks. However, if RSTA delays the installation of charging stations, the problem continues to exist,” he said.

Some EV drivers also said that despite EVs being expensive, they were still profitable when considering the amount they save on petrol.   

The limited number of charging stations is a serious limitation that the government has to work on at the earliest, drivers said.

Kuenphen Motors official, one of the motor vehicle dealers in Thimphu, imported 80 EVs in 2022 alone. As of now, Kuenphen Motors imported 108 EVs.

“The price of EV cars ranges between Nu 1.5M and Nu 3M, depending on the brand and increases with the rate of the dollar,” said an official.

The Executive Director of Bhutan Taxi Association, Tshering Penjor, said that there are 228 electric taxis in the country. “We receive regular complaints on charging stations. We are hopeful that the installation will be done soon,” he said.

BCTA Officiating Chief Transport Officer, Ugyen Norbu said that 19 of the 22 are functional charging stations in the country and the installation in dzongkhags that do not have any EVCS will be completed by March this year.

“The installation of one charging station each in Tashigang, Trashiyangytse, and Pema Gatshel has been completed and is functional. The substations in Dagana, Tsirang and Gelephu will be inaugurated this weekend,” he said.

According to another RSTA official, the EVCS in the other 11 dzongkhags that do not have EVCS would be functional by March this year. The site location and planning have delayed the work in addition to the problems caused by the pandemic.

EV roadmap 

Globally, electric vehicles are considered the most promising intervention to mitigate GHG emissions from the transport sector. The EV project as a part of the “Bhutan Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System” began in August 2021.

The country aims to replace 70 percent of its current vehicle number with electric vehicles within the next 14 years, or by 2035, in an effort to reduce vehicular emissions. The Electric Vehicle Road Map 2035 specifies the target and complies with the Low Emission Development Strategy for Surface Transport (2021-2050) policy.

The project was co-financed by the government for the GEF-UNDP funded project Nu 69 million which includes the procurement of EV charging machines, construction of the charging shed and construction of 250kVA substations.

The number of vehicles has also increased from 66,430 in 2012 to 122,865 by June 2022 of which 361 are EVs, according to the RSTA report.