3rd national car will be an EEV, commercial launch set for 2020

Govt has evaluated initial design and technical details of the EEV, which is fully driven by the private sector

By P PREM KUMAR & RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

Malaysia’s third national car project will be an energy-efficient vehicle (EEV), a less-fuel guzzler and an environmentally-friendly vehicle which is already the industry’s de facto standard among global carmakers.

The much anticipated national project will combine combustion engine with the latest energy-efficient technologies, allowing the car to travel further on a single tank compared to traditional cars.

The move for the national EEV will douse talks that the next car project will be an electric vehicle (EV), a car powered fully by fuel cells.

The government has already evaluated the initial design and technical details of the EEV. The project is fully driven and funded by the private sector.

Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof (picture) said the first model will not be an EV due to the small market size and the absence of supporting infrastructure.

“It is not going to be an EV.  It’s gonna be an internal combustion engine (ICE)-based car, but coupled with new technologies,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview recently.

ICE is the most common form of heat engine as fuel is ignited in order to work inside the engine. The same fuel and air mixture is then emitted as exhaust, via a piston or a turbine.

Malaysia has been promoting EEVs since 2014, introducing various incentives under the National Automotive Policy to woo investments.

Last year, 339,978 vehicles sold in the country were EEVs, or 62% of the total industry volume, comprising 62 models and 386 variants.

This was a huge jump compared to just a 14% market share or 93,795 units in 2014, according to figures released by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

EEVs, a combination of combustion and hybrids and fully electric cars, enjoy incentives and discounts, making these vehicles’ on-the-road prices cheaper.

Despite talks of EVs, such vehicles require charging after travelling a certain distance, but presently such charging infrastructure is unavailable in many parts of the country.

Elaborating further, Mohd Redzuan said the macro technical details of the yet-to-be-named EEV car was decided by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during a recent National Development Council meeting.

The council will meet by the end of this month to decide on the two potential strategic partners who will be co-developing the ambitious project.

The list of vendors for the new car will also be finalised, said Mohd Redzuan.

He said the strategic partner should be able to provide, among others, a platform to manufacture the car as well as tested engine components.

“We have shortlisted two strategic partners. So, we will evaluate the best platform (that) we can use.

“We have reached a situation whereby without spending money, we already know the shape and look of the car.

“We know it already…I know it already. I am privilege of a private viewing. So, now we have to acquire the best technology (to realise the plan),” the minister said.

Mohd Redzuan stressed that the third national car project will be driven by the private sector without the use of public and government’s fund, allaying concerns that taxpayers’ money will be used to finance the initiative.

He said there is a confusion over the RM20 million research and development (R&D) fund, which was reported to be linked to the project.

“The RM20 million was not a fresh fund, but existing provisions under my ministry for R&D purposes. Every country globally has an R&D fund. So, there is no reason to make a big fuss over this matter.

“However, I said the fund was ready if we needed to use it. But we have now reached a point that without tapping into the fund, we have external parties ready to do the research for us,” he said.

Redzuan said the government is also sticking to the target to have the commercial launch of the new model by the second half of 2020.

“We are gonna launch the car in 2020 and it is not far-off. We want people to support…the bigger the support, the faster it moves.”

On June 11, Dr Mahathir surprised Malaysians by announcing that the government would embark on a new national car project, the third after Proton Holdings Bhd and Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd.

The plan, however, met with mixed responses from Malaysians. Some asked for the public transportation system to be improved instead, while others fear the initiative will force the government to inject billions into the project.

The third national car project is also targeted to penetrate the Asean market and place a Malaysian automotive company on the global stage.

Vehicle sales in Asean are expected to reach 3.1 million units this year, including about 560,000 units in Malaysia, Indonesia (1.1 million), Thailand (850,000) and Vietnam (460,000).