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 Minister Tshering Tobgay and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn announced a partnership in Thimphu today, which will see both parties work toward achieving Bhutan's ambitious clean-energy goals.
"We will develop a program," said Tobgay who has backed the EV project since taking office in July last year. "We will commit to a program to achieve zero emissions as a nation by a certain target date. 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."
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."
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.
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