Turning Bhutan into a hotspot for electric vehicles

While officially launching the Nissan Leaf, a Japanese-made electric car, on Friday, the prime minister announced the government’s plans to transform Bhutan into a “hotspot for electric vehicles”, including research and development.

Lyonchhoen Tshering Tobgay said Mahindra E2O, another electric car, and the next generation of existing Mahindra Reva, would be launched this week.

He said he was hopeful that Ashok Leyland would be soon providing electric buses for tests in Bhutan.  Ashok Leyland which owns Obtare in England, manufactures electric buses.

“If the test reveals positive results, we’ll replace our buses too,” Lyonchhoen said, adding that he was also in touch with Tesla, which will be providing Sedan S model for tests in the country next month.

Electric vehicles would move Bhutan closer to the goal of establishing Thimphu as a clean electric city, where transportation is powered by clean energy

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan chief executive officer

“Even though their (Tesla) price appears prohibitive, I’ve read raving reviews about Tesla, and we need to encourage them to be a part.”

While Nissan will work with Thunder Motors in assembling and manufacturing electric vehicles in Bhutan, Lyonchhoen said he hoped Ashok Leyland would come to Bhutan and work to develop electric trucks.

Thunder Motors’ chief executive officer, Tashi Wangchuk, said Nissan would be providing technical support to manufacture low cost electric cars.  Thunder Motors will also be selling the Leaf in Bhutan.

Although the cost is not worked out as yet, Tashi Wangchuk said prices would be very affordable.

In partnership with Nissan, Lyonchhoen said government would be seeking support of International agencies to subsidise one third of the cost for Bhutanese consumers which is otherwise sold at USD 28,800 in the global market.

Nissan has donated six quick charging stations, and the government is already discussing with the company to install quick chargers throughout the country. “We’ve installed two quick chargers and they work like a charm,” lyonchhoen said.  He added that power dispensed from these chargers would be provided for free.

The executive vice president of Nissan, Andy Palmer, said the company is modifying the charger to adapt to the Bhutanese requirement.  He said conversion facility needed to be installed to suit the electric supply in Bhutan.

The executive vice president said the Leaf can run for 160km, once the battery is fully charged, but also has special technology to regenerate the battery, on hitting the brakes downhill. “In fact, the life of the battery is longer than the life of the car,” he said, adding, so far not a single battery has run out of life.

Chief executive officer of Nissan Motor corporation, Carlos Ghosn, said the company welcomes competition from other electric vehicle manufacturers, because people would feel the difference in technology.

While the import ban on electric vehicles has already been lifted a few months ago, those people buying electrics car would be exempted from import duty and environmental tax.

“Electric vehicles would move Bhutan closer to the goal of establishing Thimphu as a clean electric city, where transportation is powered by clean energy,” said Carlos Ghosn.

In countries like Japan and Norway, he said, the company learned that strong government support was the key to increase the usage of electric cars, and enabling customers to reap the benefits of zero emissions technology.

Lyonchhoen also said a program would be developed to commit to achieve zero emission as a nation, and what better partner could be than to have Nissan along the journey.

“Important part of that program would be sustainable environmental friendly zero emission transport,” he said.

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