'Bhutan’s climatic conditions and terrain provide an excellent opportunity for manufacturers to use Bhutan to test their EV models.'

'Bhutan’s climatic conditions and terrain provide an excellent opportunity for manufacturers to use Bhutan to test their EV models.'

By Sumantra B Barooah calendar 05 Apr 2014 Views icon2437 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
'Bhutan’s climatic conditions and terrain provide an excellent opportunity for manufacturers to use Bhutan to test their EV models.'

Thinley Namgyel, director, Gross National Happiness Commission, Bhutan, speaks to Sumantra B Barooah about the country’s radical zero emission mobility strategy.


Banning the sale of ICE vehicles and allowing sale of only EVs is a very strong and forward-looking step by the government. How do you see the automotive landscape in Bhutan changing by, say, 2020?

While it is little early to say precisely how the automotive landscape in Bhutan will change by 2020 as the EV is a recent initiative (initiated towards end-2013), we are hopeful that by 2020 most of vehicles plying in Bhutan will be electric vehicles.

There are a number of challenges we need to address such as affordability, EV infrastructure network, issues related to battery life and battery disposal. However, given the strong political commitment, our efforts are geared to addressing these challenges and ensuring our goal of zero emission mobility based on a sustainable, environment-friendly and efficient transportation system is achieved. 


What are the other reasons behind Bhutan promoting electric vehicles and banning conventional vehicles with internal combustion engines?

Bhutan’s socio-economic development is guided by the philosophy of ‘Gross National Happiness’. It aims to balance socio-economic development (pillar 1) with preservation and promotion of our culture (pillar 2), conservation and sustainable utilisation of environment (pillar 3) and ensuring good governance (pillar 4), which forms the four pillars of GNH. 
The electric vehicle initiative directly contributes towards pillar 1 and pillar 3. Contribution to pillar 1 is through reduction in import of fossil fuel and channeling the resources saved for social development activities. Contribution to pillar 3 is through reduced emissions.


Does Bhutan also plan to support and promote hybrid vehicles at a later stage?

There are a few hybrid vehicles already in Bhutan. However, our immediate focus is in ensuring successful implementation of electric vehicles.


How have automotive consumers in Bhutan responded to the ban?

Understandably, imposition of any ban or restriction is generally faced with certain level of resistance and dissatisfaction. However, given the reality of the situation, the need to look for an alternative solution in the form of EVs has also been recognised.  


Norway, in the West has taken a lead in promoting clean mobility by emerging as a leading EV market. Do you think Bhutan can take a lead, in Asia, if not in the world, in creating the most suitable environment for EVs?

The shorter driving distance between various places within Bhutan, abundant clean renewable hydel resources, a strong political will and our commitment to perpetually remain a carbon-neutral country does provide Bhutan with an opportunity to promote clean mobility and efforts are being directed towards creating the most suitable environment towards this endeavour.


What incentives is Bhutan offering EV makers to enter the country and to consumers to adopt emission-free vehicles?

Besides zero custom duties and sales tax, the carbon credit scheme whereby for every EV sold, the manufacturer will earn credit that can be traded for tax exemption for an imported ICE vehicle. Further, Bhutan’s climatic conditions and terrain provide an excellent opportunity for manufacturers to use Bhutan to test their EV models — Bhutan is open to discuss such possibilities for establishing EV testing facilities, conversion, assembly and manufacturing units in Bhutan.

For consumers, the government is exploring possibilities of proving free electricity to charge EVs, facilitating establishment of nation-wide quick charging infrastructure at appropriate intervals, a battery leasing scheme to reduce initial upfront financial burden and battery warranty scheme to protect buyer interests.         


Is the government planning to offer support to a local company like Thunder Motors to grow as an EV maker?

Thunder Motors assembled an EV prototype using local technology but it is yet to do so on a large scale. The Bhutanese government will support any new company or initiative that contributes to zero emission, reduces dependency on fossil fuel, and creates jobs. Our role is to create an enabling environment for promotion of EVs in Bhutan.


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