However, there are still challenges to overcome before electric vehicles gain greater public acceptance, including the lack of charging stations, undependable electricity supply, and inadequate parking lots. A fast-charge electric station costs a minimum of $30,000 and can charge only 25 vehicles a day. Establishing one requires a government subsidy as well as a regulator to permit the charging of different EV models.
Kathmandu Valley alone has 750,000 motorcycles, which are a major source of toxic gases like carbon monoxide and ozone. Introducing tax incentives for bikes and scooters similar to those for private cars could be a pivotal move. Also, at the moment there is no registration policy on electric two-wheelers, discouraging buyers.
In October last year, Prime Minister KP Oli unveiled an electric mobility action plan, proposed to transform at least 20% of the fleet of public vehicles into battery-operated ones by 2020. Amidst much fanfare he inaugurated the first five Chinese, BYD electric buses inducted by Sajha Yatayat. President Bidya Devi Bhandari herself has a BYD electric limousine.
Last year, Kathmandu Valley’s 18 mayors gathered for a workshop organised by ICIMOD to discuss an air pollution reduction strategy. Since then, beyond lip service little has been done to establish electric public transport and make emission tests for fossil vehicles more effective.
Local and provincial governments have shown an interest in providing financial support to develop electric public transport, but the plans are sketchy and ad hoc. A case in point is the confusing and conflicting proposals for electric bus rapid transit, monorail and light rail transit along the Ring Road. The proposals are restricted to speeches and slogans, but nothing concrete has been done.
One reason is the high investment cost of electric public transport, which requires government to step in with subsidies.
Over the years, revenue from the Petroleum Tax has grown to a whopping Rs5.2 billion. Some of this could be invested in a clean-energy electric transportation strategy.
The Seoul-based Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has been helping the central government with just such a strategy on electric mobility, and to find potential investors. General Director Frank Rijsberman was in Kathmandu last week to sign an agreement to implement e-mobility in Nepal. GGGI is keen to help Nepal with its first purchase of 300 electric buses for cities across Nepal. (See interview below)
“Operating an electric transport fleet is more complex, requires higher initial investment and more infrastructure than traditional buses, but in the longer-term, renewable energy sources are not only ecologically but also economically viable,” said Rijsberman. “We believe that it is not only the right thing to do but also the best way of growing in the 21st century. In the coming years we hope to see a breakthrough and electric buses on the streets of Kathmandu.”
Electric vehicles are now a necessity, not just an environmental statement. Neighbouring India and China have committed to manufacturing only electric automobiles by the year 2030. This means Nepal will be forced to go electric since most vehicle imports are from those two countries.
Said Bhushan Tuladhar of Sajha Yatayat: “Like it or not, Nepal will have to go all electric in about a decade. So we may as well start planning for it. That way, the transition will be much smoother, efficient and advantageous.”