The government of Bhutan is considering replacing all their gas-powered taxis with electric ones. So far, the electric vehicles mentioned in connection with this potential plan have been Nissan Leafs and Teslas.
Prime minister Tshering Tobgay wants to reduce oil imports by 70%. Currently, petroleum products are the country’s top imports, costing billions per year. Fluctuating oil prices mean these costs can increase, sometimes rapidly.
Bhutan has significant hydro power facilities for electricity generation, so employing electric vehicles seems to be a sensible solution to reduce oil import costs, reduce air pollution, decrease climate change emissions and help keep Bhutan ‘green’.
There are four major hydroelectric plants in Bhutan and an assortment of smaller ones in rural areas. Chukha Hydel is one of the largest, with a capacity of about 336 MW. The Punatsangchhu project is in the works, and is 1,200 MW. It is also part of a larger government initiative to develop 10,000 MW of hydro power by 2020.
So, though some might consider having only electric taxis for an entire national population of 740,000 a quaint notion, Bhutan’s energy infrastructure will be well suited for it. Additionally, the capital city of Thimpu might become a research center for the study of electric vehicles, according to the prime minister’s vision. For Bhutan’s taxi drivers, reportedly their current daily fuel cost is about 800 rupees but if they were using electric taxis, they would only be paying about 10 rupees.
The Bhutanese government has preserved natural resources through other efforts, such as banning mountain climbing which has kept many places pristine. (The original intention was more about respecting local spiritual beliefs.) Bhutan has also been very careful about tourism, only recently expanding the number of tourists they will allow in. If all the taxis there are electric, this new wrinkle may generate some positive press and make the country even more attractive to tourists.
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