Proton not moving into EV space yet

‘EV manufacturing requires huge investment and the return would not make it commercially viable for Proton’

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

INSUFFICIENT infrastructure and demand may delay Proton Holdings Bhd’s plans of making electric vehicles (EVs) in the near future.

Sales and marketing VP Roslan Abdullah (picture) said the practicality of using EVs and availability of infrastructure such as charging facilities are factors that need to be considered to woo Malaysians away from the petrol and diesel engine vehicles.

“We need to understand Malaysian customers’ driving behaviour. We love to drive cars from Kangar in Perlis to Johor Baru. Imagine you drive an electric car from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Baru in 10 hours, it will be quite difficult (without charging). It goes back to customers’ demand,” Roslan told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview.

He said proper infrastructure must be readied with the support from the government, in terms of subsidies, as what other countries have done.

He added that customers are also reluctant to buy hybrid cars and EVs at present due to concerns over the trade-in value.

Roslan, who is also Proton Edar Sdn Bhd CEO since June, said EV manufacturing requires huge investment and the return would not make it commercially viable for Proton.

“Proton found that the feasibility study conducted on investment and sales of EVs does not match, which means it is not a positive investment yet. For hybrids or plug-in EVs, yes,” he said.

A lack of awareness among consumers and limited charging facilities are hampering the growth of the hybrid and EV market in Malaysia.

At present, EVs can go anywhere between 100 miles (160.9km) and over 400 miles on a single charge.

The longest-range EV currently is Tesla Model S Long Range Plus that has the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated range of 402 miles on a single charge.

Introduced in February this year, the Model S Long Range Plus’ starting price is US$74,990 (RM314,208) following a US$5,000 price reduction in May.

Hybrid vehicles in Malaysia saw declining sales last year, falling to 13,049 units from 20,744 units sold in 2018, according to data from the Malaysian Automotive Association.

EVs saw an improvement from two units sold in 2018 to 32 last year, but the number is still a far cry from the volume in advanced markets.

Total sales for hybrid and EV vehicles in Malaysia only accounted for 2.2% of 604,287 units sold by carmakers last year.

Proton’s decision could impact the execution of Malaysia’s National Automotive Policy 2020 launched last February to position the country as an auto exporter and embrace future mobility, including connected mobility and EVs.

The new framework incorporated three new advanced technological elements namely next-generation vehicle, Mobility-as-a-Service and Industrial Revolution 4.0.

One of the key developments planned under the policy is the setting up of an autonomous automated connected mobility centre of excellence comprising autonomous vehicle testbed, EV interoperability centre and motorcycle emission test centre.