BEAUTY IN THE FRIDGE

According to these M’sians, life as an EV owner here isn’t as difficult as you’d think

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Owning an electric vehicle (EV) is not as prevalent in Malaysia yet when compared to other countries, given the lack of awareness in the country and limited infrastructure to support owners.

In 2019, a report showed that over 60% of Malaysians are still not keen on purchasing electric cars because they’re still too expensive to purchase and there’s a lack of charging stations locally. 

This was reflected in EV sales in the country as well, because in the same year, the total sales of hybrid and EV vehicles in Malaysia only accounted for 2.2% of 604,287 units sold.

Despite these limitations though, there is a community of local EV enthusiasts who’ve navigated (pardon the pun) their way around them to still enjoy the experience of driving an EV in Malaysia. How did they do it? What should someone new to this know before starting their own journey as an EV owner?

To have our questions answered, we interviewed 4 EV owners from the Malaysian Electric Vehicle Owners Club (MyEVOC) group on Facebook:

  • Datuk Shahrol Haimi (president of MyEVOC) who drives a Tesla Model S leased from Malaysia Green Technology Corporation;
  • Yein Yee Chew who drives a Tesla Model 3 SR+ bought from Vision Motorsport in PJ;
  • A. who drives a Mini Cooper SE 2020 bought from Ingress Auto Bangsar;
  • Alvin Phua who drives a Nissan LEAF bought from Tan Chong Nissan Klang, Sungai Rasah branch.  

Datuk Shahrol has been driving his Tesla since March 2017, whereas Yein Yee has been driving electric cars since 2012. Alvin has been driving his EV for 2 years while A. is currently in his 5th month of driving his Mini Electric. 

The Cost Of EVs In Malaysia

As of September 2020, there are only 4 EV models that are officially sold in Malaysia, which are the Nissan LEAF, the Mini Electric, the BMW i3s, and the Porsche Taycan. 

The Nissan LEAF retails for around RM181k to RM185k, the Mini Electric for around RM218k, the BMW i3s for RM268k, and the Porsche Taycan for about RM725k.

As of 2021 actually, all the models listed above (excluding the Porsche) are considered some of the most affordable EV cars globally. At this point in time though, they’re still not an asset that most of our M40 population can easily afford.

However, for those who’ve been saving up to own an EV, the investment needed at the start may be worthwhile down the line, according to our interviewees’ savings, but more on that later..

Starting The EV Journey

For the most part, there isn’t too big of a difference when it comes to driving an EV versus driving an internal combustion engine (ICE) car. There are no special classes or license requirements you’ll need to obtain before owning and driving EVs.

“There are some subtle differences such as ‘single-pedal driving’, whereby you don’t touch the brake pedals while driving, but instead use the car’s regeneration capability to slow the car down,” Datuk Shahrol added.

Datuk Shahrol matching his Tesla’s colour / Image Credit: Datuk Shahrol Halmi

Simply put, single-pedal driving means you’ll be doing all your accelerating, coasting, and even braking with just that one right pedal we usually use for acceleration in conventional cars.

That being said though, some cars will still have that brake pedal just in case you need more brake power for some situations. 

Before A. purchased his Mini Electric, he did extensive research on electric cars (mostly on the maintenance bit) and also joined Facebook EV groups to learn more about this world.

“To get the idea of driving and owning an EV is pretty easy actually. Thanks to Tesla bringing more awareness on EVs, I had plenty of resources to access online,” he explained.

Keeping That Battery Charged

All interviewees shared that they will not let their battery go lower than 20% to 30% before their next charging session.

“On a long-haul road trip, it’s a good idea to have at least a 5% buffer when planning to reach the next charging destination. Today, most modern EVs with a 5% charge can at least get you another 20-30km depending on the battery pack size,” Yein Yee explained. 

He also added that depending on the model, some EVs may have more battery buffer from the manufacturer than others, and some battery chemistry can also be discharged to 0% without damaging the battery pack. 

Yein Yee’s Tesla at a charing station / Image Credit: Yein Yee Chew

From what I found, most electric cars have built-in buffers that won’t let it drain to a true 0% or charge them to a true 100%. Since charging cycles of 0%-100% damages batteries, car manufacturers have been working to mitigate this. 

Datuk Shahrol tries to keep his battery between 20% to 80%, which is one of the recommended battery ranges you should keep your electric cars in. 

Charging Stations (Or Lack Thereof) Ain’t A Big Issue

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest hindrances that’s often brought up in the discussion of why there aren’t more EV 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 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 charge a car fully whereas AC charging points take around 8 hours.

However, all four of them noted that they don’t usually take up to a whole hour to charge them (rather, 20 to 40 minutes) because of how fast it charges. 

Furthermore, EV owners can get their own portable chargers from agents and installers which allows them to charge overnight. You can find the list of Malaysian agents and installers for electric cars that Datuk Shahrol shared here.

Having a portable EV charger affords you the convenience of charging the car overnight at home, much like charging your phone at night while you’re asleep. The charging infrastructure at home looks like a 3-pin socket or a wall-mounted charger unit. To add, it’s useful when you’re on the go, as long as you have access to a 3-pin socket along your journey.

If you’re lucky enough like A., you can easily leave your car to charge at ChargEV stations nearby your house anytime like he does since he lives close to these stations.

For long-distance drives, planning your trip ahead is advisable, but it’s not too big of a hassle thanks to apps like A Better Routeplanner (ABRP) which can automatically show you the charging stations in your direction and how long it will take to get from one to another. 

An EV that’s 100% charged, travelling from JB all the way to KLCC, only needs a 14-minute stop at Ayer Keroh DC Rapid charger to top-up, Yein Yee shared

The Cost Of Giving Up Petrol

All 4 of them unanimously agreed that replacing petrol with electricity as fuel does save them a bit of cash, which is about 20% to 30%, according to Datuk Shahrol.

For Alvin, he saves around RM400 per month now compared to when he was using petrol, since his EV consumes 6-7 sen/km whereas it would be 15 sen/km for a 1.3L ICE car.

Alvin and his wife with their Nissan LEAF / Image Credit: Alvin

A., who has the privilege of accessibility to many ChargEV stations, pays RM200 for their yearly membership which grants him unlimited charging from their stations. So technically, he only pays RM16 per month for unlimited charging. 

Yein Yee on the other hand saves about RM86.34 monthly, as his monthly travel distance is around 1,488km, hence:

  • 6.3L/100km ICE car = RM192.18 on RON95 fuel
  • 15kwh/100km EV = RM105.84 on residential TNB electricity

“Enough for a decent McDonald meal for a family of 4,” he joked about his savings. While it isn’t as much compared to the others, he noted that his use of an electric car is mostly because he wants to cut his household carbon footprint rather than fuel costs.

Dictionary Time: Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases—primarily carbon dioxide—released into the atmosphere by a particular human activity.

Take Part

Less Maintenance Needed Than ICE Cars 

Although EVs are still fairly new to the local automotive industry, maintenance and repair isn’t too complicated to go through, at least according to our interviewees. 

For both Datuk Shahrol and Yein Yee who own a Tesla, software issues can be handled through remote diagnosis, and the repair is done through the Internet. Normal repairs like repainting the bumper can also be done in local workshops. 

“In an EV the only things that need maintenance are the tyres, brake fluid and windscreen washer,” Datuk Shahrol added. “However, since the nearest Tesla service center is in Hong Kong, the car has to be sent there for warranty claims. This will hopefully change soon with the Tesla service center opening in Singapore by July 2021.” 

Alvin on the other hand just sends his car to the local Nissan service centre for maintenance which includes software/firmware updates and checking on the battery condition. 

“EV is almost maintenance-free except for brake pads, tyres and battery condition which are wear-and-tear items,” Alvin told Vulcan Post. 

In general, this is because EVs have fewer moving parts than ICE cars. So EVs like A.’s Mini Electric will only need to be sent for maintenance once every 2 years.

The Ideal EV Is One That Suits Your Needs

“Before you even think about getting one just think about your “ideal range” and your daily use. At the moment, it’s all about range. The higher the range that car has to offer the higher the price will be,” A. highlighted, especially for those who worry about this.

But Alvin also cautioned, “Do not simply compare between EVs’ maximum ranges or cheapest prices. If the government were to allow any uncertified EV battery to be brought into our local market, and say it catches fire, that will spoil EV’s 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 their experiences have reassured you or simply solidified your doubts even more, switching to using EVs is a very personal choice, whether it’s 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 a hybrid vehicle first if you would rather wait for Malaysia to improve its local EV infrastructure before committing to the full EV 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)

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