Originally, the somewhat modest plan was to introduce 2,000 electric vehicles to the capital of Bhutan. Then things got bigger when Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn paid the country a visit and the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, said his country, "will commit to a program to achieve zero emissions as a nation by a certain target date." Now we're approaching "holy huge" territory. Last week, Tobgay visited Japan to ask Nissan and Mitsubishi for help in possibly replacing every combustion vehicle with an all-electric option.


"Gasoline is expensive and unfriendly to the environment." – Bhutan's Prime Minister

At the very least, Bhutan wants to make more eco-friendly vehicles available. Tobgay told AsiaNews that, "Gasoline is expensive and unfriendly to the environment. Sustainable transportation will bring citizens happiness," which is something that a country that measures its Gross National Happiness is eager to track.

Switching to electric vehicles makes complete sense in Bhutan, since the mountainous Asian nation produces more renewable hydro-electricity than it can use. Ninety-five percent of the zero-emission energy is exported to India, and Bhutan uses the profits to buy fuel from India to then power its vehicles. You can probably figure out for yourself how there's a simpler way to do this.


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  • 25 Comments
      electric-car-insider
      • 9 Months Ago
      The biggest motivation for Bhutan, other than keeping its environment healthy, is solving its balance of trade deficit. Something the US would do well to emulate. DarylMc, spending 3x the amount of energy to make hydrogen, instead of charging batteries, is not a very economic solution, even if the electricity is plentiful and cheap (better to get cash from India instead of wasting it on the conversion). The H2 cars on the market today are not cheaper than 250+ mile range Tesla's. The fuel is 4x - 12x as expensive. On the higher side if you're splitting water.
        DarylMc
        • 9 Months Ago
        @electric-car-insider
        Hi electric-car-insider I just mentioned it for consideration since Bhutan has a very cold climate. Batteries don't perform at their best in sub zero temps and fuel cells produce waste heat. In reality it seems cost is probably going to prevent either from being anything other than a grand idea. The article alluded to the prime minister seeking some special consideration from the manufacturers and that is why I mentioned they could talk to Toyota. I'm sure Toyota would like to see at least some of their FCV's running on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels and if there ever was a case for fuel cell vehicles it is probably in climates like this not California.
        Marco Polo
        • 9 Months Ago
        @electric-car-insider
        @ electric-car-insider I think what Daryl Mac is referring to the impracticality of EV's in such a difficult terrain. Most of Bhutan's traffic is 4WD and heavy trucks. Such roads as exist outside the small capital city, have steep gradient, very poor surface conditions etc. In a nation of people with zero infrastructure, no railways, and very low per capita income, the idea that a Nissan leaf, or Mitsubishi iMev will make a major improvement is ludicrous. The government of Bhutan wastes money on this sort of ludicrous propaganda, rather than providing badly needed infrastructure, including emergency services.
          Anderlan
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Marco Polo
          I don't know that it's wasting money. Not until you've already swapped EVERY car that can conceivably be replaced by a 90mile EV will you even begin to waste money. In a country that sells power and buys petrol they'll make their money back in a few years. Not until you saturate the market and the only vehicles left to replace are actually the long range heavy haulers will it be a waste of money. If I had a nickel for every time someone pretended to wail about the poor citizens of the world in order to protect fossil fuels I'd have almost as much money as I'd have if I'd invested in TSLA, SCTY, or any other greentech stock 18 months ago.
        DarylMc
        • 9 Months Ago
        @electric-car-insider
        There is probably also a good case for continuing to sell their clean power to purchase fossil fuels.
      danfred311
      • 9 Months Ago
      Asking Nissan is quite futile. They are incompetent to provide a solution even within affluent western means. Bhutan economy could not weather anything the dummies at Nissan could come up with even if they spent a billion dollars developing a product just for you. You could ask me for advice but you don't have the wisdom to do that.
      DarylMc
      • 9 Months Ago
      Sebastian I watched the video. Now if you could replicate the certainty of the statement and then the awkward pause in the Prime Minister's words leading to "before a certain target date" it would be quite something (no disrespect to the Prime Minister but it didn't come across well in the speech). To see "any" country achieve energy independence and transportation powered by renewable energy is a great thing in my opinion and I wish Bhutan well in the endeavour. Since the climate is very cold there, it may even be worth courting Toyota's FCV powered by hydrogen electrolysis. If they can reclaim some of the heat from a fuel cell vehicle it may actually make sense.
        DarylMc
        • 9 Months Ago
        @DarylMc
        Oh and as far as gross national happiness goes, I reckon not changing gears in a electric vehicle beats the best automatic transmission hands down.
      FordGo
      • 9 Months Ago
      Switching to electric, and not paying "market" prices, driven by Hedge Funds, could be a huge financial relief.
      Marco Polo
      • 9 Months Ago
      Bhutan, ah, Bhutan, the nation who measures it's economy by "gross national happiness " rather than GNP. But, alas, much of the "national happiness', appears to be restricted to the Prime Ministers friends and ethnic faction, if not life can get pretty precarious, and ''happiness" is a long forgotten emotion. About 20% of the ethic minorities suffer very real persecution and deprivation of human rights. In addition, with an per capita income of about $1400 p.a., buying a new car, be it electric or gas, isn't a pressing issue ! But hey, outside of the small capital city, there is only about 60 miles of road capable of being used by a Leaf or similar small vehicle, so range anxiety shouldn't be a real issue. Road building in such terrain is horrendously expensive, and even more difficult to maintain, totally unsuitable for EV's. The principal highway, Lateral Road is famous for it's dangerous and appalling surface conditions, sheer drops, hairpin turns, bad weather, avalanches, landslides, and long steep inclines. Bhutan has no rail transport. But since Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay , and his cronies, seldom venture outside the capital except by helicopter, it's no wonder this doesn't present a problem. Ah, Bhutan, the Shangri-La of naive Western journalists !
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Marco Polo
        wow, you seem to have a real problem with Bhutan for whatever reason LOL. Minorities claim to persecuted in other countries including in some of the biggest car markets of the world i.e China, India,. Ion't know how this is relevant to autoblog and green cars. "But hey, outside of the small capital city, there is only about 60 miles of road capable of being used by a Leaf or similar small vehicle, so range anxiety shouldn't be a real issue:" Total bullshit and exaggeration of course, but don't let facts stand in the way of your politics :) "Bhutan has no rail transport" Personally I don't see why Bhutan would want to invest huge sums of money to build railways through some of th harhest terrains in the world when the population is only 750,000. But this is relevant here, how? "But since Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay , and his cronies, seldom venture outside the capital except by helicopter" Again this just total bullshit, because even he wanted to the government doesn't have the resources to fly him on helicopter everytime he wants to "venture out" "Ah, Bhutan, the Shangri-La of naive Western journalists" The only one who is naive here seem to be you, who seems to think he can fabricate and exaggerate and people will simply take his word. I am from Bhutan obviously, I'd be interested in knowing where you're "really" from?
          Marco Polo
          • 9 Months Ago
          @ jimmy I'm originally from the UK, but I live most of the time in Australia. However, I have visited Bhutan and my observations are substantiated by the UN and the Government of Bhutan's own yearly report. [http://www.nsb.gov.bt/publication/files/pub10pp3748yo.pdf] Let's me understand what it is you dispute ? 1) Bhutan has only 66,000 licensed drivers ? 2) A total of 33,000 light passenger vehicles? 3) 30,800 of those vehicles are in the two major cities ? 4) outside of the two cities, only 60 to 80 miles of roads are classified as being year round accessible by light vehicles, with clearance issues. (Light 4WD Jeep types vehicles, not included). 5) over 20% of Bhutan's population, (mostly ethnic or religious minorities) are denied even the most basic human rights and live in fear of persecution? You can find the data relating to 1-4 in the publications of the Bhutan government. ( By the way, many counties with difficult terrain find rail to be more effective than road ).
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Marco Polo
        1) Bhutan has only 66,000 licensed drivers ? OK, so what's you're point? the shouldn't have electric vehicles because of that? 2) A total of 33,000 light passenger vehicles? Again what the hell is your point? 3) 30,800 of those vehicles are in the two major cities ? Again what is your point? If they'd rather the 33,800 light vehicles use electricity generated by Bhutan's own rivers as oppose to gas imported from outside, what's your problem? 4) outside of the two cities, only 60 to 80 miles of roads are classified as being year round accessible by light vehicles, with clearance issues. (Light 4WD Jeep types vehicles, not included). Complete and utter bullshit since the lateral rode you cite alone is at least 250 miles long is accessible with shitty Indian manufactured Suzukis with 10 inch wheels and very low clearance. However even if were true, what is argument against going electric? 5) over 20% of Bhutan's population, (mostly ethnic or religious minorities) are denied even the most basic human rights and live in fear of persecution? ROFL, good lord this must be your Pièce de résistance, LOL. Pray tell us how these minorities are who are "denied even the most basic human rights and live in fear of persecution ". Your sir, are pathetic. While there are lot of things wrong with Bhutan and most Bhutanese (including I) will readily admit to it them, you have decided to take up your sanctimonious crusade at the most inopportune time.
        Actionable Mango
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Well, this is green.autoblog.com, and that's what they are reporting on. It is not political.cronies.and.human.rights.issues.of.foreign.countries.com.
          danfred311
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          I don't know much about Bhutan but I do know that you are a massive tool and by default wrong, Marco.
          Marco Polo
          • 9 Months Ago
          @Actionable Mango
          @ Actionable Mango Really ? Don't you think it goes to the credibility of the article ? What then is the purpose of article mentioning the "gross national happiness " concept ? I'm surprised that you consider ABG articles should simply regurgitate propaganda, without any critical examination regarding the viability of the claims.
      Spec
      • 9 Months Ago
      Bhutan is trying to do a very difficult thing. EVs are still very expensive. And do they have electricity generation to support lots of EVs?
        Ryan
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Spec
        Wind and solar probably work well there.
        BB91103
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Spec
        the mountainous Asian nation produces more renewable hydro-electricity than it can use
        DarylMc
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Spec
        Hi Spec Yes they do have the electric power needed from hydro power which they sell to other countries and then use the money to import fossil fuels. The biggest problem I see is the extreme cold there will hamper the effectiveness of Nissan's Leaf.
          Anderlan
          • 9 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          Right. Maybe Nissan will offer something with a little more range sooner rather than later given this huge market...that is also occasionally very very hilly and very very cold, and so could use any extra bit of range very, very much.
          Anderlan
          • 9 Months Ago
          @DarylMc
          I shouldn't say "huge market" as if compared to other nations it is huge. But if things continue according to plan it should compare well to the LEAF sales of any single US region.
        ElectricAvenue
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Spec
        Were you not able to read all the way to the third paragraph? Or maybe even, I don't know, look up the very basic information you'd need to look up about Bhutan? As for "EVs are still very expensive" - whatever you say, dude. Under $30K for a Leaf, before incentives, is not what I would call "very expensive". The average price of a new car in the United States is over $30,000.
          Marco Polo
          • 9 Months Ago
          @ElectricAvenue
          @ ElectricAvenue I think Spec means expensive in Bhutan. $30,000 would be the equivalent of 22 years income for the average motorist in Bhutan ! (or 44 x 30,000 = $ 1,320, 000 for a Leaf ! ) Now, I don't see many Americans paying $1.3 mil for a Leaf., do you ?
          Joey McClary
          • 9 Months Ago
          @ElectricAvenue
          "before incentives" LOL! Like those incentives available in America are available worldwide.
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