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3 Reasons Why Electric Vehicle (EV) is Still Irrelevant for Malaysian ( 2017-07-20 )

They are in the movies, they are in the Marvel comics and they are not merely an imagination anymore, the electric cars are the future of automotive industry. After many years of research and development, we finally have some real electric cars on the road. Automakers such as Tesla, Faraday Future and NIO are companies that solely producing Electric Vehicles (EV)s and having more than one model in the pipeline. While major commercial carmakers like Honda, Nissan, Toyota and Kia are slowly coming up with their all electric model in overseas, what exactly is the electric car scene in Malaysia? In this article, we are going find out what are factors that stopping the electric car sales in Malaysia.

1. Pricey

With the rising wave of plug-in hybrid vehicles all over the world, it marks a strong potential to upend the industry. Almost every major automakers are planning to increase the volume for plug-in hybrid and EV sales in order to stay relevant as an innovative car brand in the industry. However, the scarcity of Malaysia's economy and human resource make Malaysian hard to have an EV at a budget price range. In Malaysia, there are only 3 model of EVs available for public to choose from. The Nissan Leaf costs RM180,000 and Renault Zoe costs RM145,000 as well as the two doors Renault Twizy which cost RM71,000. These EV cars are selling at an expensive price tag compare with a similar segment petrol car that normally sells at RM80,000.

Just like the early mobile phones, the early adopters are willing to pay more money to drive the research and development (R&D) in order for the technology to advance together with the economy. With the establishment of Tesla Gigafactory, Tesla is going to scale up the production of the Model 3 which will target to be everyone's day-to-day ride. We are seeing the automotive industry scaling big in terms of increase human force and R&D to adopt the idea of EVs and plug-in hybrids so the competition will help to drive down the cost.

2. Misperception of Maintenance Fee

EVs are benefiting from not requiring oil change and maintenance cost for exhaust system, neither do automatic transmission fluid, spark plugs, muffler nor any midnight rush to the gas station for refuel. According to an user experience in My Nissan Leaf forum, the replacement of battery in Nissan Leaf costs around $5,500 (Approx RM23,567) based on the current rate. Replacing battery in your EV is not as costly as you might think. According to Nissan, the Nissan Leaf consists of 48 modules with 4 cells in each and each module can be repaired or replaced independently. Moreover, the replacement of battery is very unlikely within the first six years of driving. One might think that purchasing multiple batteries are able to prevent the increase of battery price. Unfortunately, car manufacturer will only allowed to replace the new battery in exchange with the existing battery in order to ensure old battery is properly recycled and disposed.

3. Government Incentives

The hype for EV in Malaysia is not as encouraging as in overseas. According to Green Car Reports, the Renault Zoe continues to be the best-selling battery-electric car in Europe registering 10,676 units sold in the first half of 2017. According to South China Morning Post, the Transport Department figures indicate there is a total of 10,589 private EVs registered in the city, and 2,964 of them were registered in March 2017 alone . Even in our neighbor country Thailand, the Thailand’s Board of Investment has approved promotional privileges for manufacturers of green cars (hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs) includes tax holidays of five to eight years and slash of excise tax for CBU import cars. These numbers were made successful because of the government incentives and marketing to advocate EVs to improve city air quality. Well, not every day is Sunday. 

The discontinue of CBU Hybrid and EV incentives was being declared in NAP 2014 has left the excise duties and import taxes for hybrids and EV back to its normal rates or even higher. In return, the demand for such vehicles is getting poorer and poorer in the country. There was reported that the sales of Hybrid car plunges 44.5% (-2,674 units) fall in the first half of 2015. Honda has suffered the worst with only 2 hybrid vehicles sold as compared to total of 4,235 units back in 2014, With the electric mobility is growing strong worldwide, Malaysia is slowly falling out from the EV trend, the future of EVs in Malaysia is still a vague scene.

4. Lack of infrastructure

The adaptation for electric car in Malaysia has been a slow march, especially with the lack of infrastructure development in the EV industry. According to Asian Nikkei Review, there are over 100 electric cars are currently on the road, and only 95 EV charging stations are being set up in shopping malls and hotels are not enough. The Malaysia government witness there will be an increasing demand for EV in the future. GreenTech Malaysia has been putting effort to raise the awareness of green technology and one of their projects is to drive the development of electric mobility solutions. To date, the company has installed more than 150 EV charging stations across the nation and they are planning to increase the number to 300 charging stations for next year. GreenTech is working closely with Tesla, previously brought in 100 units and now both parties are discussing about possibility of Tesla operations in Malaysia.

Alternatively, you can consider these hybrid cars for better fuel mileage and performance.

Hyundai Ioniq

The Hyundai Ioniq will serve as a great family sedan for small family. There are two variants up for grab, the HEV and HEV Plus which both powered by 1.6 litre GDI four-cylinder Atkinson engine which mated with 1.56kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack located under the rear seat. Hyundai claims that the Ioniq fuel consumption of just 3.4 litre /100km which is approximately 30km per litre. With that, Hyundai is offering an eight-year (unlimited mileage) warranty on the traction battery, and should it need to be replaced after that, there’s a guarantee that the cost of the battery replacement will be below RM10,000. What a great deal!

Nissan Serena S-Hybrid

The Nissan Serena S-Hybrid is the perfect choice for big family. This reliable and cozy eight seater MPV will drive you and your family comfortably to the destination safely. Under the hood, the 2017 Nissan Serena S-hybrid is being equipped with 2.0 litre direct injected twin CVTC four-cylinder engine, the motor capacity has been increased to provide push when moving away from a standstill. There is a separate 27 Ah battery to power the car accessories like radio, wipers and headlamps. While the main 64 Ah will be used to energize the motor for day to day drive. Nissan has claimed that the Serena S-Hybrid fuel economy is 15.2km/litre and it is EEV certified. Apart from the official figure, one of our colleague actually owns one and claims that the fuel economy in city driving with moderate acceleration is around 11km/litre, fair enough.

Honda Jazz Hybrid

The 2017 Honda Jazz Hybrid is best fit for every young bachelor and bachelorette in town. The all new Jazz comes with various upgrades that promise fun driving experience. The Jazz Hybrid is being fitted with Intelligent Dual-Clutch Hybrid Systen (i-DCD), which features 1.5 DOHC i-VTEC engine mated with 7 Speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) for sportier driving experience. The Jazz Hybrid is powered by a Lithium-Ion battery which is two times the output and 1.5 times the energy capacity than the previous IMA battery. With that, Honda claims that the Jazz Hybrid fuel economy of 4 litres per 100km (25km/ litre), this was made successful because the Jazz Hybrid could fire up in EV mode without the need for engine running and EV mode is being activated when the car speed up to 80km/h.

The electric cars might be slightly far-fetched. However we can see that there are excitements for EVs in the market. To make the EV dream a reality, there must be a right policy, infrastructure and public awareness to grow the EV market in the country. So for now we prefer to stick with the fuel driven and hybrid vehicles, and I conclude that the electric vehicles is still irrelevant in our country. Let’s give it a few more years, we will witness the continuous effort of all parties to demonstrate the feasibility of EV in Malaysia road and the consumer will finally give EV a chance. 

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