The Nissan Leaf electric car launched recently in the country is still making headlines around the world.
The idea appeals to the global media and audience as Bhutan has a strict environment conservation policy, and that it gels with the country’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness. At a time when an increasing number of cars is interpreted as progress, the government’s initiative to go electric has caught the world’s fancy. Particularly, when a “tiny” country like ours take the lead.
To the world, by introducing electric cars, and with a plan to replace taxis and pool vehicles with electric vehicles, we are a step ahead in acknowledging the ecological problem, although not of our doing.
Back home, there is a mixed reaction to the government’s policy. Many appreciate the initiative. Until recently, notwithstanding the traffic congestion, parking space shortage and huge outflow of the Indian rupee, all initiatives were geared towards increasing the sales of vehicles. It was far easier to get a car loan than to process a house loan, despite the housing shortage.
While we are professed as the champions of environment, pollution is already a problem, and our highest import consists of fossil fuel.
But more than the cause of environment, it is a credible decision, because it will help stop the outflow of the much-valued rupee, reduce fuel import, and ease the strain on the economy. An electricity-based transportation system sounds viable, given our potential in hydroelectricity. For that matter, we should even move for a public transportation system run by electricity.
A start to go electric has already received a boost with the launch of another brand of electric vehicle, Mahindra REVA, which will be distributed by Singye group of companies.
The concern, however, is that, before we move big time to electric vehicles, there should be enough grounds, apart from the grand plans to embrace the change. There are skeptics, who are not convinced that electric vehicles will work in Bhutan.
The concerns arise mainly from the nature of our roads, resale value, the trust in the life of batteries, and the cost of the cars and batteries. Some are even questioning if enough studies have been done before government subsidises the fleet of electric cars to hit our roads. The concerns are valid, as we are one of the few countries to replace a fleet of vehicles with electric cars.
Cars will give problems, whether diesel, petrol or batteries run them. But with some batteries costing half the cost of the car, dealer and manufacturers warranting the life of batteries could allay the fear. What will also be crucial is efficient and affordable after sales service. Otherwise, these cars will land up as second cars for the wealthy.