Last December, we learned that Bhutan's capital city, Thimphu, wanted to build up a Leaf taxi fleet. That's when Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn went to Bhutan to talk about the project and he has recently returned to deliver some vehicles to the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, who has been advocating for EVs since taking office in July and has set a preliminary target of 2,000 EVs on the streets of Thimphu.
Tobgay said his country, "will commit to a program to achieve zero emissions as a nation by a certain target date." It's not an outrageous goal for the Himalayan country, since it generates a lot of hydro-electric power, way more than it can use. There are only around 750,000 citizens of Bhutan and they only use five percent of the clean power made within its borders. Most of the rest goes to neighbor India. The problem, as expressed in Nissan's press release (available below), is that Bhutan takes "almost all of the revenue earned from selling electricity" to buy fossil fuel from India and power its national vehicle fleet. You can probably see how making the switch to EVs can simplify and clean things all around. There's a video of Ghosn's Bhutan trip below.
Feb. 21 – Thimphu, Bhutan – An electric revolution has begun in Bhutan.
The remote Himalayan country, renowned for championing "Gross National Happiness," has taken first steps towards becoming a leading global electric-vehicle nation.
Prime Ministers of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay and Nissan CEO, Carlos Ghosn
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn announced a partnership in Thimphu Friday, which will see both parties work toward achieving Bhutan's ambitious clean-energy goals.
"We will develop a program, we will commit to a program to achieve zero emissions as a nation by a certain target date," said Tobgay who has backed the EV project since taking office in July last year.
"We cannot go on this journey ourselves, we need the world to travel with us and what better partner than to have the Nissan LEAF help us along this journey."
Press Conference in Thimphu, Bhutan
Nissan, the global leader in zero-emission vehicles, will build on its EV expertise to electrify the country's fleet and help Bhutan develop its charging infrastructure.
"There is a lot of courage, a lot of will, a lot of vision behind the Prime Minister of Bhutan's positioning on the electric car and I feel good about supporting this," said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
"Obviously, it's within the interests of Nissan because we have our own interests here. But I think this can create a lot of other examples in the future and hopefully Bhutan can become a showcase."
Nissan LEAF driving on roads in Bhutan
Bhutan, rich in renewable hydro-electricity, has a strong environmental – and economic – case for EVs.
The country currently only uses 5% of the clean power it produces, exporting the majority to India.
But almost all of the revenue earned from selling electricity is spent on fuel imported from India to run the nation's existing vehicles, which number some 36,000 vehicles in Thimphu alone.
Reducing oil imports with this EV project, will also free up finances that can be used elsewhere.
Starting with two Nissan LEAF EVs presented today – the King of Bhutan's birthday - Nissan will supply more electric vehicles and quick chargers with local distributor Thunder Motors, with the government's fleet first to make the transition to zero-emissions motoring.
The LEAF stands out in Thimphu today but with the partnership underway, many more will be on the roads of Bhutan before long.