Electrify the future

  • The government’s grand plan to operate e-buses is yet to see the light of day

Apr 12, 2019-

Last October, when a fleet of new electric buses were inaugurated, Prime Minister Oli had announced a new action plan for electric transport that stated that at least 20 percent of the public vehicles would be running on battery power by 2020. Then, in December last year, it also announced plans to purchase and operate 300 electric buses in major cities.

Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota had publicly announced that the government would import big e-vehicles as part of its policy to promote an electric transport system in the country. But even after much fanfare, no steps have been taken to realise the plans. According to government officials, this delay is due to lack of policy and expertise.

The plan was to start operating electric buses on the Ring Road from mid-April; but since there are no regulatory laws, Kathmandu residents will have to wait for some more time. The transition to electric vehicles will require sizeable investments in research and development. And the adoption of vehicle charging infrastructure will have to be accelerated.

Two years ago, the Electric Vehicles Association of Nepal submitted viable public transport routes for electric vehicles in the Kathmandu Valley to the Department of Transport Management, but the authorities concerned have not taken any steps to provide route permits. There are almost 20,000 public transport vehicles in the Valley, deemed too few for its rapidly swelling commuting population. So while the Nepal Electricity Authority and the government have taken commendable steps to promote electric vehicles in the country, the Department of Transport Management has to use this opportunity to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in urban areas.

As a country, we have been early adopters of electric vehicle technology, especially in the public transport sector. In the late 1970s, there was the trolley bus—the buses ran on electricity and were clean and quiet. Although not in operation anymore, adopting the trolley bus was way ahead of its time. In the 1990s, the Safa Tempo was introduced. More recently, e-rickshaws have been operating on roads in the Tarai. Meaning, our history of using low-emission vehicles goes a long way back. Given that, there is no reason for us to not take switching to electric vehicles to a new level altogether when using electric vehicles has gathered momentum globally.

Electric vehicles are a cleaner and environmentally-friendly alternative to the vehicles that are powered by internal combustion engines. Considering how polluted our air is, the switch to zero-emission vehicles must be made quickly. The country is spending billions of rupees on importing petroleum from India. By promoting electric vehicles, the country’s consumption of imported fuel can be reduced drastically. Hence, the government must swiftly draft policies so that the electric buses the government purchased can come into operation as soon as possible.

Published: 12-04-2019 11:50

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