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Bhutan aims to transform capital into all-electric vehicle playground

Posting in Transportation

The remote and secretive nation of Bhutan -- a small Himalayan kingdom that bans foreign exports and only allows tourism via groups -- wants to become a "hotspot" for the electric vehicle industry.

According to The Financial Times (paywall), Tshering Tobgay, prime minister of Bhutan, together with government officials, said this week that official government vehicles will be replaced with Nissan's Leaf by March next year. The electric vehicle (EV) switch would only be a starting point, as the government hopes taxis and family cars will all eventually be replaced by locally assembled EVs.

At a conference, Tobgay told reporters:

"This government is going to attempt to make Thimphu an electric vehicle hotspot. We are confident that electric vehicles can take off here."

Apart from Nissan, other EV manufacturers in the United States have been contacted, including Tesla, to try and make the capital an EV-based hub. With its population of 120,000, electricity is cheap -- thanks to local hydroelectric plants -- and while much of it is exported in order to bring fossil fuels to the region, enticing consumers to switch to EVs could not only give green energy a boost, but improve the country's economy. 

Tobgay said:

"You put 2,000 vehicles in Thimpu and suddenly Thimpu is an electric city."

Although many residents now own a car as ownership rates rise in line with incomes, many trips are short, and the Bhutanese often rely on the 3,500 taxis in the city -- which if converted to EVs, will have an immediate impact. Currently, taxi drivers spend 800 ngultrum ($13) a day on fuel, but officials say that if a switch to an electric vehicle is made, this could reduce to only 10 ngultrum.

Nissan confirmed the talks, telling the publication:

"Nissan applauds the initiative taken by the Bhutanese government to leapfrog oil-dependent mobility in favour of zero-emission transport and is keen to support their ambitions."

Via: Quartz

Image credit: Flickr

— By on November 26, 2013, 2:16 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure