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.