Having an electric vehicle (EV) is still not as common in Malaysia as compared to other countries lack of awareness in the country and limited infrastructure to support homeowners.
In 2019, a report showed that more than 60% of Malaysians are not yet interested in buying electric cars because they are still too expensive to buy and there are charging stations locally.
This was reflected in EV sales in the country as well, as in the the same year, total sales of hybrid and EV vehicles in Malaysia accounted for only 2.2% of the 604,287 units sold.
Despite these limitations, however, there is a community of local electric vehicle enthusiasts who have navigated (forgive the pun) around them to enjoy the experience of driving an EV vehicle in Malaysia. How did they do it? What should someone new to this know before starting their own journey as an electric vehicle owner?
To answer our questions, we interviewed 4 owners of electric vehicles from the Malaysian Electric Vehicle Owners Group (MyEVOC) on Facebook:
- Datuk Shahrol Haimi (President of MyEVOC) driving a Tesla Model S. leased of Malaysia Green Technology Corporation;
- Yein Yee Chew driving a Tesla Model 3 SR + bought from Vision Motorsport in PJ;
- A. who drives a Mini Cooper SE 2020 purchased at Ingress Auto Bangsar;
- Alvin Phua driving a Nissan LEAF bought at Tan Chong Nissan Klang, a branch of Sungai Rasah.
Datuk Shahrol has been driving his Tesla since March 2017, while Yein Yee has been driving electric cars since 2012. Alvin has been driving the electric vehicle for two years while A. is currently in his fifth month driving his Mini Electric.
The cost of electric vehicles in Malaysia
As of September 2020, there are only a few 4 EV models which are officially sold in Malaysia, which are the Nissan LEAF, the Mini Electric, the BMW i3s and the Porsche Taycan.
As of 2021, all of the models listed above (except the Porsche) are considered some of the most affordable EV vehicle balloonsaLly. At this time, however, they are not yet an asset that most of our M40 population can easily afford.
However, for those who have been saving up to owning an electric vehicle, the investment required at first may be worth it, according to the savings of our respondents, but later on.
Starting the EV journey
For the most part, there is not much difference when driving an electric vehicle versus driving a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE). No special classes or license requirements are required before owning and driving electric vehicles.
“There are some subtle differences, such as‘ single-pedal driving ’, in that you don’t touch the brake pedals while driving, but use the car’s regenerative ability to brake the car,” Datuk Shahrol added.
In short, driving with a single pedal it means you will be doing all acceleration, driving on the coast and even braking with just that right pedal that we usually use to accelerate in conventional cars.
That said, however, some cars will still have this brake pedal in case you need more brake power for some situations.
Before A. bought his Mini Electric, he did extensive research on electric cars (mainly on the maintenance bit) and also joined Facebook EV groups to learn more about this world.
“Getting the idea to drive and own an EV is really pretty easy. Thanks to the fact that Tesla raised awareness about electric vehicles, it had a lot of resources to access online, ”he explained.
Keep this battery charged
All interviewees shared that they would not drop the battery from 20% to 30% before the next charging session.
“On a long-distance road trip, it’s a good idea to have at least 5% buffer when planning to get to the next charging destination. Today, most modern electric vehicles with a 5% charge use it. they can reach at least 20-30 km more depending on the size of the battery, ”Yein Yee explained.
He also added that depending on the model, some electric vehicles may have more buffer from the manufacturer than others, and some chemical can also be discharged from the battery at 0% without damaging the battery.
From what I have found, most electric cars have built-in buffers this will not let it drain to 0% true or load them up to 100% real. Since 0% to 100% charge cycles damage batteries, car manufacturers have been working to mitigate it.
Datuk Shahrol tries to keep his battery between 20% and 80%, which is one of them recommended battery ranges you should save the electric cars.
Charging stations (or missing ones) are not a big deal
As mentioned above, one of the most important hurdles often presented in the discussion about why there are no more electric vehicle owners in Malaysia is the lack of charging stations in the country. Currently, there are only around 300 charging stations across the country, most of which are concentrated in the Klang Valley.
Only a handful of them are direct current (DC) charging points, which are faster than alternating current (AC) charging points. DC charging points take up to an hour to fully charge a car, while AC charging points take about 8 hours.
However, all four noted that it doesn’t usually take up to a full hour to charge them (rather, 20 to 40 minutes) due to the speed at which they charge.
In addition, electric vehicle owners can get their own portable chargers from agents and installers, allowing them to charge overnight. You can find the list of Malaysia electric car agents and installers shared by Datuk Shahrol here.
Having a portable EV charger gives you the convenience of charging your car at night at home, like charging your phone at night while you sleep. The charging infrastructure at home looks like a 3-pin plug or a wall charger. Additionally, it’s useful when you’re on the go, as long as you have access to a 3-pin plug throughout your trip.
If you’re lucky like A., you can easily leave the car to load at ChargEV stations that are close to home at any time, like him, as he lives near those stations.
For long distance units, it is advisable to plan your trip in advance, but it is not too complicated thanks to applications such as A Better Route Planner (ABRP) which can automatically show you charging stations in your direction and how long it will take you to get from one to the other.
The cost of giving up gas
All four unanimously agreed that replacing gasoline with electricity as fuel saves them some cash, which is between 20% and 30%, according to Datuk Shahrol.
For Alvin, he now saves around 400 RM a month compared to when he used petrol, as his EV consumes 6 to 7 sen / km, while it would be 15 sen / km for an ICE car of 1, 3 liters.
A., which has the privilege of accessibility to many ChargEV stations, pays € 200 for its annual subscription, which gives it an unlimited charge for its stations. Therefore, technically he only pays € 16 a month for an unlimited charge.
Yein Yee, on the other hand, saves approximately 86.84 RMS per month, as its monthly travel distance is about 1,488 km, so:
- ICE car of 6.3 L / 100 km = 192.18 RM with fuel of 95 RON
- 15kwh / 100km EV = RM105.84 in residential TNB electricity
“Enough for a decent McDonald’s meal for a family of 4,” he joked about his savings. While not as much compared to the others, he noted that using an electric car is mostly because he wants to reduce the carbon footprint of his home rather than fuel costs.
Dictionary time: The carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases (mainly carbon dioxide) released into the atmosphere by a given human activity.
It needs less maintenance than ICE cars
While electric vehicles are still fairly new to the local auto industry, maintenance and repair are not too complicated to achieve, at least according to our interviewees.
For both Datuk Shahrol and Yein Yee who own a Tesla, software problems can be managed through remote diagnosis and repair is done over the Internet. Normal repairs such as painting the bumper can also be done at local workshops.
“In an EV, the only things that need maintenance are the tires, the brake fluid and the windshield washer,” Datuk Shahrol added. “However, since the nearest Tesla service center is in Hong Kong, you have to send the car there to claim guarantees. We hope that this will change soon with the opening of the Tesla service center in Singapore in July 2021 ”.
Alvin, on the other hand, only sends his car to the local Nissan service center for maintenance, which includes software / firmware updates and checks the battery status.
“The EV needs almost no maintenance, except for the brake pads, tires, and battery condition, which are wear items,” Alvin told Vulcan Post.
In general, this is due to the fact that electric vehicles have fewer moving parts than ICE cars. Therefore, electric vehicles such as the Mini Electric from A. They will only have to be sent for maintenance once every 2 years.
The ideal EV is the one that suits your needs
“Before you even think about getting one, just think about its ‘ideal range’ and its daily use. For now, it’s all about scope. The higher the range the car offers. , the higher the price, ”A. stressed, especially for those who care about it.
But Alvin also warned, “Don’t just compare between the maximum ranges of electric vehicles or the cheapest prices. If the government allowed an uncertified EV battery to be introduced into our local market and said it would light up, that would ruin the EV reputation in Malaysia. ”Datuk Shahrol shared the same sentiments and added that comparing different EV models is like comparing apples and oranges.
Regardless of whether your experiences have reassured you or simply further consolidated your doubts, switching to electric vehicles is a very personal choice, either to save on fuel costs or to reduce your carbon footprint.
In the end, it comes down to your current priorities and what you can afford. You can always opt for one hybrid vehicle first if you prefer to wait for Malaysia to improve its local electric vehicle infrastructure before committing to the full lifestyle.
- You can read more EV-related articles we’ve written here.
- You can learn more about the MyEVOC Facebook group here.
Featured Image Credit: Alvin and his Nissan LEAF (left), A. and his Mini Electric (right)