Small Bhutan could lead in a big way in switching to clean energy in the transportation sector, if we are serious. We have the potential to do it. The number of vehicles on our roads, given the size of the country, is nothing compared to others. 

What we need is bold decisions and infrastructure to make it happen. We need the political will. If there are serious and well-planned policies, the rest should fall in place. It is, in fact, an opportunity for carbon-neutral Bhutan to practice what we preach.

The biggest hurdle, as we known, is the cost of electric vehicles (EVs). The cheapest is more than five times  the most common  small car. Electric vehicles, today, is an option – the second or the third car of a rich family who uses it to run errands. They find it effective. 

If our aim is to, for instance, replace 70 percent of the vehicles with EVs by 2035 as specified in the Electric Vehicle Road Map 2035, we need to see policies and decisions working towards the target.

This is evident from the handful of electric cars on our roads.  The ones with government agencies are gifted or donated. Those used as taxis are made available through subsidies. The others belong to those who can to afford  as a cheaper option. Electric vehicles are not new products anymore. EC, just a few years ago, was recognised  as “undeniably the future of transportation” with decision makers putting on record that Bhutan  should embrace the new technology. 

We all know the advantages of going electric. Bhutan imports more fossil fuel than the clean energy we export.  We also know that the clean energy we export is cheap and the fossil fuel we buy is expensive. If there is a way to curtail the import of fossil fuel or leverage on technology, our trade balance will improve.

What we have not done is following up on the rhetoric and the policies that we meticulously prepared. If we had, we should have already replaced 10 percent of the motor vehicles with EVs. Our problem is not living up to the grand policies or decisions we make. Quite often, our policies change with the government or the bureaucrats who gets shuffled from  ministry to ministry. If we had stuck to our decisions and polices, we would be better on our electric vehicle journey.

The common feedback among those interested in embracing EVs is the cost and the lack of polices to encourage people to switch to EVs. More affordable loan to enable people to buy EVS, many say, is an option. The banks may not earn as much as the other expensive loan portfolios, but the overall benefit is more profitable.

Another speed bump on the EV highway is the infrastructure.  EVs are getting cheaper and will become more competitive. But if we do not have basic infrastructure like charging stations, it will not encourage people to switch to EVs.

The prospects of going electric are many. What we have to do is relook into our polices. For instance, letting financial institutions come with their own lending rates to encourage EVs could be one effective way. Driving an EV is cheaper, according to taxi drivers who find paying the monthly loan installments expensive, even with subsidies.