Staff Reporter

Come January, residents of Thimphu can travel in a modern electric bus on the main city bus route.

City Bus Service and Kuenphen Motors last week signed a contract for the supply of an electric bus and two charging stations.

The 27-seater bus with air conditioning will operate on Thimphu’s trunk line. “It is as powerful as the new diesel buses that have lately entered service on CBS’s main line, but being fully electric, it is quiet and will require less maintenance, which means greater reliability,” a press release from CBS stated.

The bus will charge overnight, and stage short “top-up” stops during the day at the 150kW DC and 30kW AC charging stations.

City Bus Service Manager (OMD) Pasang Tshering  said, “We, along with other government agencies, have been through a thorough planning stage to reach this point.”

The new electric bus is intended to be the first step in the electrification of Bhutan’s passenger bus fleet. The experiences and lessons learned from operating it will be used in planning the next stages in the development of public transport in Thimphu, and in other cities.

Kuenphen Motors is one of the local suppliers of electric taxis and charging equipment for a GEF-UNDP-supported project that aims to add 300 electric taxis to Bhutan’s taxi fleet by the end of 2022.

Both initiatives are part of a broader push to modernise Bhutan’s transport system. “Increasing congestion and deteriorating air quality pose a growing threat to the nation’s cultural richness and heritage and damage the balance that its people have traditionally enjoyed with nature,” the press release stated. “Improved public transport and reduced reliance on private vehicles  and import of fossil fuels are part of the solution.”

CBS recently introduced the real-time bus information App Gakyid, and Smart Card ticketing. It has also put 34 new diesel buses in service to make using public transport more attractive.

The electric bus project is supported by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), with funding from the Austrian Development Agency.