Lack of technicians & repair facilities poses challenge for country’s EV roadmap

Bhutan’s electric vehicle roadmap which intends to replace 70 per cent of vehicles with electric alternatives by 2035 is facing a significant challenge. The country, currently, grapples with a shortage of qualified technicians and repair facilities. As a result, electric vehicle owners in the country are facing difficulties finding competent repair services, with many forced to rely on manufacturer-operated service centres.

Currently, the country has more than 580 electric vehicles on the road, according to Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority’s 2022-2023 annual report.

However, there is a lack of a repair service centre or a workshop with qualified technicians for these vehicles.

The EV owners expressed their worries over the lack of expertise within the country.

“When it comes to maintaining and repairing electric cars, we don’t have experts or qualified technicians in the country. And regular mechanics don’t even touch our vehicles, saying that they can’t risk it,” said Ugyen Penjor, an electric vehicle owner.

However, companies such as Bhutan Hyundai Motors which distributes Ionic and Kona EV models said that they have not faced any issue with the repairing of electric vehicles in their company.

They added that they even seek expert advice from Hyundai’s home country of Korea when faced with uncertainties.

Another issue voiced by electric vehicle owners is the exorbitant costs associated with spare parts. They say that they often find themselves paying more than twice the amount they would usually spend on spare parts for non-electric vehicles.

“The maintenance expense is a huge issue for us. They say that it takes a long time to get parts and that they have to ship the parts from outside. Because of this, they charge around 200 per cent of the actual price,” said Ugyen Penjor, an electric vehicle owner.

“It would benefit us if the government can look into lowering the taxes for imported parts for electric vehicles and also help us with the shipment expenses for the parts since most of them have to be imported,” said Sonam Dawa, also an electric vehicle owner.

However, Bhutan Hyundai Motors and some of the other companies said that they are exploring avenues to reduce the costs of spare parts, including sourcing parts through cargo to lower transportation expenses.

To address technician shortages, Thimphu Technical Training Institute even introduced an EV curriculum in 2022, training 68 individuals in repair and maintenance.

However, challenges persist due to inadequate facilities and equipment, necessitating trainer capacity building.

The challenge is not as daunting as of now given that the EV road map is in its emerging stage with the vehicles on the road being imported recently without requiring much maintenance. However, EV owners fear that the situation will turn dire in the long run if they don’t see adequate repair centres with well-trained technicians.

Karma Samten Wangda

Edited by Phub Gyem

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