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e-Taxi drivers propose green zone parking, charging, maintenance stations

Yeshey Lhadon

 Green taxis or battery-driven taxis are seen picking up their passengers from the old city-bus parking at Changlam stretch. They give discounted taxi rates on the fare compared to gasoline-driven taxis. They charge Nu 10 less compared to fuel taxis.  

“We provide a discount to the passengers riding in green taxis for now because we don’t have to pay a single penny for charging the battery,” said electric taxi drivers.

Guru Tshering, the leader of green taxi parking said that they have been receiving positive comments from the commuters for their services.”Especially people with children applaud green taxis for spacious seats and the reasonable prices,”

However, they requested the city municipal and traffic police for a separate and designated green taxi parking zone opposite Jojo’s building at Chang Lam. They plan to call it a ‘green zone’ and paint the parking lot in green colour. “Once we mark it as a ‘green zone’, no other vehicle will be allowed to park at the allotted parking space,” said Guru Tshering.

Currently, the electric taxi drivers are paying the normal parking fee of Nu 20 for half an hour. “Since we promote environmentally friendly taxi vehicles, we shouldn’t be charged a parking fee. But the relevant stakeholders are not willing to do away with the parking fee completely, maybe we will have to pay a certain amount. But it would be much less than what gasoline-driven taxis pay,” he said.

 Due to the lack of proper parking space for electric taxis, some of the drivers do rounds in the city. “Even the public supports our proposal of making Changlam stretch a Green zone,” said an electric taxi driver.

Also to decongest the current taxi parking near the city bus parking area, citing the comparatively bigger size of a green taxi, the drivers and Bhutan Taxi Association urge the city municipal and traffic police to approve the proposal. “It is too crowded there with too many people and vehicles at the current taxi stand,” said Guru Tshering.

“Moreover, we joined hands with the government and pledged to keep our city pollution-free, thus we are hopeful that the relevant authorities will listen to our pleas,” he added.

Green taxi drivers pledge to provide affordable services as per Road Safety and Transport Authority’s rate. Because they are not affected by the recent hike in fossil fuel prices.

Another electric taxi driver said that since there’s only a handful of green taxis as of now, their decision to provide discounted fares wouldn’t affect the rest much. “Moreover, we are trying to encourage the fuel drivers to switch to electric taxis,” said Guru Tshering.

There are about 250 electric taxi drivers across the country. It has been eight months of making a better living out of electric taxis. After being in the taxi business for more than seven years, Dorji and his friends are excited to share some of the notable perks of switching to green taxis.

Green taxi drivers said that the new EV taxi is comfortable and efficient. However, they are still clueless about where to go for maintenance and services.”Government must also encourage workshops that cater to the need of EV maintenance,” said Dorji Wangchuk.

Taxi drivers were lured into switching to EVs by the government. They were offered collateral-free bank loans of 70 per cent which should be paid within seven years. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided a 20 per cent subsidy. Electric taxi owners only paid 10 per cent of the total costs amounting roughly to Nu 400,000. The electric taxi vehicles are worth three million. And each electric taxi driver was handed the US $5000.

However, some said that they are facing difficulty in making ends meet as they need to pay almost Nu 30,000 a month to the bank. “We are working hard and we can only think of making a profit once the loan is paid off,” said Dorji.

More than 300 green taxis will be on the road by September. Electric taxi drivers also shared their concerns regarding inadequate charging stations. Despite having four charging stations, they need to wait in line for at least 4 hours to get charged. They said that they don’t find a huge difference with fuel vehicles in that sense.”The number of electric vehicles is too huge for the four charging stations to cater fast service,” He said.

“We can choose to charge batteries at home but it takes longer. We only get a five percent battery charge in one hour at home,” he added.

Green taxi drivers also claimed that some battery charging stations need maintenance. ” Some charging stations don’t work. Although the government repaired it, we face such problems from time to time,” said an electric taxi driver.

Green taxi drivers hope that the government will install more charging stations in the country to address the shortage.

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