Electric cars

Really powerful


I drove an electric car last week. It was a Reva, an electric vehicle manufactured in India. The Department of Energy is currently testing the car on Bhutanese conditions.

The Reva is small. In fact, it’s not much bigger than a golf cart. So it can fit only two adults – that’s the driver and one passenger. The car actually has rear seats, where you can squeeze two little children. But if you do, you won’t be able to find space for even small luggage. Only this, and yet the car costs Nu 450,000 without taxes.

Theoretically, the Reva can run for 80 kilometers on a complete charge. So that means it is good only for local transport. A fully charged battery couldn’t take you to Paro and back. And you can forget about traveling to Punakha.

But there’s good news. The Reva emits zero emissions. So it would be good for Thimphu and our environment. It would also be very good for Bhutan’s image.

And there’s more good news. The Reva is cheap. Very cheap. It takes nine units of electricity to completely charge its battery. At Nu 1.40 per unit (that’s the price of electricity at the highest slab) that works out to Nu 12.60. A fully charged battery can take you for 80 km, so each km would cost Nu 0.1575 in electricity.

Now consider a small petrol car. That would give you about 15 km per liter. A liter today costs Nu 38.53. So a kilometer traveled would cost Nu 2.5687. Say you travel an average of 30 km per day. That’s 900 km a month. That would cost you Nu 2,311.83 on the petrol car. But only Nu 141.75 on the Reva!

That’s a huge difference. And the difference gets much bigger if you compare the Reva with larger internal combustion vehicles or if you are required to travel more each day. Plus, electric vehicles require much less maintenance because they are lighter, and they have fewer moving parts.

If the electric vehicle catches on, the difference at the national level would be immense. We’d be able to substitute expensive imported fuel with clean hydropower which we can generate in abundance. And this positive trade-off would do wonders for our economy. That’s where we, as a nation, would really gain.

So our government should aggressively encourage electric vehicles. To do so, it should test more electric cars, including bigger ones from other countries; subsidize import duties and taxes on them; use them as pool vehicles; and grant preferential parking, especially in town.

But the first step is obvious: our ministers should drive them. Only then would others follow.


Facebook Comments:


  1. More calculations below:
    Ministers’/Secretaries Land Cruisers or Prados give mileage of about 9km/lit of diesel and average government hilux/ (the most common office cars) gives only about 7km/litres. They might be better, but our drivers and MTOs clarify that’s the average for local tours in Thimphu.

    So average cost of diesel Nu 30.97 in Thimphu leads to atleast Nu. 3.87/km(considering 8km/lit of diesel). Average of 30km/dayx30days= 3483/month on our hilux/prados which is mostly only used for local transport in Thimphu. Difference in running cost = 3483- 141.75(highest cost, could be far lesser) = 3341.25/month x 12 months = 40,095/yr. Multiply that with say 100 hiluxs(10 ministries and other organizations) = 40 lakhs =4million in a year. A good deal of money in cash, besides being environmentally friendly and energy/economical secure.
    On the other hand is the cost difference in our hilux/prados (our official carriers) and Reva electric cars besides the low maintenance cost you mentioned. I think this is far cheaper than having hilux/scoprio/Mahindra/prados running within Thimphu.
    even for personal use, i think those of us with 2 or more cars in a family should think of such alternatives for dropping kids and our normal office travel within thimphu.
    Good luck with the Cars!!

  2. Ministers and highrakned govt officials should buy these vehicles and use to collect milk from milk booth in Chubacchu.. at the moment we see a lots of Prados some belonging even to ACC coming to collect milk.. use the read seat to load vegetable… i havent see the interiors but it could be used for grocery shopping or use to refill LPG gas… this may reduce use of prados for pity personal works


  3. Good trying... says

    In addition to testing parameters and other benefits, it may be fitting to conduct both online and field survey for use of this product particularly for local use. The government may have to sit with the manufacturer to know their long term interest on the product, spare parts, cost of spare parts, training, establishment of service center in Bhutan, cost of maintenance, and other activities. DoE being the leading agency may have to collect data, quarry information, analyze it, test it and gradually implement it. Let us follow step by step method (waterfall method) because we don’t have resource to revisit except cautiously derive conclusion.

    In addition to what others have mentioned, following points may be useful for successful implementation and long term benefit:

    1) The government bearing certain amount for cost of the vehicle
    2) Free operation meaning that no charge for road usage (zero cost for plying on Bhutanese roads and the vehicle document)
    3) Wave off for emission test
    4) Free repair and maintenance
    5) Subsidiary on spare parts and tyre

    Thus, a lot needs to be done from bilateral issues with the manufacturer to collaboration with hydro electric corporations in Bhutan, NEC, WWF, MoA and others.


  4. Sudipto Roy says

    Is the Reva powerful enough to climb the Bhutanese roads? Let’s say can a Paro resident drive it to the hospital from the main town? I doubt it.

    • I drove the Reva along the Swimming Pool road, up to RICB complex, up Changangkha shortcut to Motithang School, and back down via MOLHR. I had a passenger, an adult. And it drove well. I was satisfied. So, unless power deteriorates as the batteries age (and I can’t see why that would happen), the car may have what it takes for our steep roads.

  5. Despite all teh calculations, it is still an expensive little toy. WHAT IF THE GOVERNMENT COME UP WITH A SCHEME OF ABOUT 50% DISCOUNT (INCENTIVE) FOR THOSE WHO ORDER TEH FIRST 50 CARS. Only initiatives like this from the government will spur interest from the public and it is a worthwhile effort as it is for the environment and the ozone layer. If you bring two cars just to show case and hope for the Bhutaense public to show interest at that price – it will be a wasted effort. It is high time that the government make some gainful initiative or why not NEC to spear head to generate interest among all to buy this car and use it effectively. My proposal is just one idea but our govt. can have many.

  6. Romeo.
    You are right fi we compare with small indian cars..
    But remember 4 lakhs is more expensive than a hilux or other government pool vehicles which are only used for local purpose in Thimphu.

  7. I think the electric car will help preserve our environment but it is expensive. Since wherever we go we have a habit of carrying too much baggages, therefore most Bhutanese will not prefer this small car. I think it is good only for local use and therefore urban dwellers should be encouraged to use such type of car. At the same time facilities to charge the battery should be set up if it is used for long distance travel. Hope it will not take much time for the battery to get fully charged.

  8. Instead of going for things that seems to look expensive and infeasible what if we take a new direction by encouraging people to use bicycles for travelling short distances within the city.
    I am wondering why this culture is not taking roots in Bhutan, where even in most developed countries it is still being used by many people. It has lots of social benefits besides being cheap and providing exercise for good health.
    I suggest whoever, the present or future government, should look into promoting this culture by building bicycle friendly roads and encouraging people to use it instead of banning it.


    • The car I drove handled well and was stable. But it’s very light and safety would, indeed, be an issue. There are other electric vehicles that are bigger and obviously safer.

      • Yes la, safety in all small cars would be an issue and this car being electrically operated would definitely help control pollution. Global warming is what world has an issue with.

  10. I want to know is there any climatic problems in winter.

  11. It looks funny to see an adult drive that toy like car. I wrote about it too after see a BBS program. I should have remembered your article, but I sure came across your picture when googling and used it there in my blog:http://writebhutan.blogspot.com/2010/06/green-car-car-truly-for-bhutan.html

    However, the same REVA company had lot of other designes that can satisfy Bhutanese desire, one of them I have linked in my blog.

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