Bhutanese vehicles to go all electric

Located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, the small Kingdom of Bhutan is serious about transforming its entire transport fleet for the better - by introducing electric vehicles.

Thimphu Bhutan

Buildings in Thimphu, Bhutan. Photo: Nick Hardcastle

Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay recently announced that the country aims to replace all official government vehicles, taxis and private vehicles in the capital city Thimphu, with electric vehicles. Hopefully beginning by March 2014.   

Well-known for its measurement of Gross National Happiness (GNH), measured alongside Gross Domestic Product (GDP), by introducing electric vehicles Bhutan is seeking to enhance its environmental sustainability and the well-being of it's people - two key elements to Gross National Happiness.  

With a population of 120,000, Thumphu is an ideal size for this type of initiative. For the fleet of 3,500 taxis, switching to electric vehicles will reduce costs for the drivers, and may mean cheaper fares for passengers.

Most electricity in Bhutan comes from hydropower (run-of-the-river) meaning it is largely clean. Electricity is used for domestic use but a large proportion is exported to India, making it the biggest foreign exchange earner. With the money traded for electricity, Bhutan purchases foreign oil for fueling the country's vehicle fleet - around 1000 barrels of oil are purchased per day, making it one of Bhutan's biggest imports. With electric vehicles the purchase of oil would no longer be required.

Who is involved so far?

Nissan confirmed they have talked about supplying the Nissan Leaf for government vehicles, plus the charging infrastructure. The latest Nissan Leaf has a 24kWh battery and a range of around 160km.

It is envisaged that Bhutan would become a research and development centre for electric vehicle technology. One company already exists called Thunder Motors, which is investing in the area and may be a supplier in the future for taxi and private vehicle owners of locally assembled electric vehicles.

This initiative will help the country remain carbon neutral, and hopefully helps to increase the happiness level a little further.

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Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014