Numerous polemics have surfaced recently about Malaysia’s industry performance, in particular, investments coming into the country compared with our regional counterparts.
Among those were discussions on investments and policies that have been committed in other countries in the region, and concerns that Malaysia was lagging behind in electric-vehicle (EV) development—both in products and infrastructure.
I would like to reiterate that while electrification is challenging in any markets, Malaysia is progressing in this area. In my previous articles, I have said any comparison of progress cannot be made apple to apple, as most economies are unique from a socio-economic, cultural, technical standpoint. Malaysia is just as unique in its position in the region – it is ranked third in both gross domestic product (GDP) and GDP per capita, making it a middle class economy close to breaking into advanced economy status, despite being the sixth largest population out of the 10 members of ASEAN.
From an electrification standpoint, we are the only country with a full-fledged automotive design and manufacturing capabilities, with the potential of transforming our talent pool to drive electrification and connected mobility within the sector. This places us in another unique situation whereby policies have to be carefully curated to address the specific needs of our industrialisation process and beyond the issues of charging facilities and assembly lines only. It is a transformation of lifestyle, from fuel dependence to zero-emission transportation, something that both consumer and manufacturer must evolve into.
This requires that any electromobility framework be developed from the ground up by taking into consideration the required standards, safety, energy requirement and social culturing on fossil fuel dependence, carbon emission control, and socio-economic normalisation.
The National Automotive Policy has placed importance on vehicle electrification since its revision in 2014, with a framework for customised incentives for EVs to be assembled and manufactured locally. While there are still issues and processes to address, significant milestones have been reached to form the foundation of electrification in Malaysia. Firstly, numerous Malaysian standards and regulations have been established and gazetted for EVs, including electric passenger cars, motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles.
These standards are not limited to vehicles only, but also include standards for new components in EVs, such as connectors and inlets, charging systems, sockets and testing standards for lithium-ion batteries. As of November last year, there were more than 195 public EV charging locations, with an estimated 4,345,046km of charging range, thus avoiding an estimated 431,948kg of CO2 emissions.
There are challenges that need to be addressed, particularly from a consumer point of view. While many lamented the tax restructuring of electric vehicles and hybrids, there was not much evidence to suggest that zero tax would translate to more EVs bought, or a flourishing EV industry could be established. During this period, domestic sales of battery electric vehicles (BEV) were only in the low hundreds annually, and the increase in sales of PHEVs was due to price reductions from incentives as EEV status.
Even so, the high price to produce these models limited them to the premium and upper-middle segments, meaning that the incentives did not have the ability to reach larger parts of the society. Our findings from consultation sessions with BEV owners were also interesting. As they attempted to embrace the “EV lifestyle”, they found it difficult to manage their range anxiety.
The main complaints included complications in installing home charging ports, abuse of EV charging spots, and inconvenient charging times where fast charging was not available in locations where a fast turnaround was needed. To spur the EV development in a conducive and safe manner for both consumer and industry players, the new revision of the NAP will continue on its learning curve to create an electrification model that is sustainable for buyers of electromobility, as well as jobs and businesses in the sector so that they can one day lead the lifestyle of electromobility.
In developing the industry, the government is planning the development of an EV Operability Centre (EVIC), a shared testbed for the development of EVs and EV-related products and systems, including vehicle technology, smart grid integration, as well as energy farming, storage, and management.
This “well to wheels” ecosystem is crucial to ensure the transition of conventional transportation to connected mobility can be made possible, and more importantly, sustainable