By ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN
LOCAL taxi company Big Blue Taxi Facilities Sdn Bhd is finalising changes to the safety specs of its electric-powered taxis. The first 500 completely built-up (CBU) units are expected to be delivered from China by the end of August.
The company is working with four major automobile companies from China, India, Japan and Europe to develop the world’s first e-hailing electric vehicle (EV) called Zeno.
Big Blue Taxi planned to launch the EVs in May but regulatory setbacks forced the company to push the release date by three months. Its CEO Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail Md Tom (picture) said the taxis, which are being produced for the Chinese market, had to be reconfigured to meet local requirements.
“In order for us to get the Vehicle Type Approval certificate, we have to make some changes to the specifications of the car, especially the safety features on tyres. We should be able to finalise the new specs by this month,” Shamsubahrin Ismail told The Malaysian Reserve.
Industry observers have speculated that the electric cabs could be modelled after Shenzhen-based BYD Co Ltd’s E6, which is currently being used in Singapore. The E6 model has an operating range of up to 350km and a battery that requires 90 minutes to be fully charged.
Shamsubahrin Ismail denied the rumour but declined to reveal the marque.
However, he hinted that the first 500 CBU units will be manufactured in China.
“Once we receive the 500 units, we will assemble the rest locally. We will have an open tender to get local carmakers to participate in the assembly process. We want to give Malaysian companies the opportunity to work with EV technology,” he said.
Shamsubahrin Ismail stated that while the cars will be assembled locally, the batteries will be sourced from Japan.
“We will still import the batteries from Japan, maybe from Panasonic Corp,” he said.
Panasonic is the world’s largest manufacturer of lithium- ion battery cells for electric cars, supplying batteries for Tesla Inc at the massive Gigafactory plant in Nevada that the two jointly own.
Although Big Blue Taxi had previously announced plans to deploy up to 20,000 EV cabs in Kuala Lumpur by 2020, the lack of availability of charging stations in Malaysia is still a concern.
As at September 2018, the country had about 400 charging stations nationwide. However, Green Technology Malaysia Corp and Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) Energy Services had planned to up the figure to 1,000 by end-2018, and increase it further to 3,000 stations by end-2019.
“We are meeting up with TNB representatives yesterday to discuss about the charging stations,” Shamsubahrin Ismail said. Apart from the local market, Shamsubahrin Ismail said Zeno will also be expanded to serve other right-hand drive markets in the region.
“The Asean population is estimated at about 600 million, so this is the market that we are tapping. We are looking to give a tough fight to ride-hailing companies in the region like GoJek Ltd and Grab Holdings Inc,” he said.