EV: Is it just hype?

Are people buying the vehicle to partake in environmental sustainability or to keep up with the latest technological trend? 

by AUFA MARDHIAH 

ELECTRIC vehicle (EV) adoption is expected to rise this year. 

International Trade and Industry (MITI) Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz in December 2022 affirmed the government’s support for the EV agenda through the National Automotive Policy (NAP 2020) and the Low Carbon Mobility Blueprint. 

Tengku Zafrul said Malaysia is currently committed to leading efforts in attracting EV investments and meeting the national target of 15% total industry volume (TIV) for EV and hybrid by 2030, and 38% TIV by 2040. 

The country is also targeting to have 10,000 public EV charging stations by 2025. 

Sunway University Business School professor and economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said given the rising EV adoption in advanced countries and the adoption of a net zero carbon target, Malaysia’s largely foreign-driven automotive industry will be shaped by rising global EV trends. 

Do EVs Live Up to The Hype? 

The question now is whether early adopters buy EVs to really partake in environmental sustainability or to keep up with the latest technological trend? The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) spoke to a few early EV adopters on their perspective and experience. 

Farhan Abdul Rahim, 46, was eager to own the technological advancements that EV, particularly Tesla Inc, have introduced. 

“The functions such as autopilot, minimalist design within the Tesla’s interior, as well as the addictive performance coming out from the electric motors is the one that excites me. Nothing to do with the hype and trend in early 2020. 

“In fact, I had the opportunity to experience Tesla as early as 2017 through the test drive model brought in by the Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Corp (MGTC),” he told TMR. 

Farhan drives two EVs, namely Tesla Model 3 and Kia EV6. 

Shahrol Halmi, 53, who also drives a Tesla Model S, disagreed that the tendency of EV adoption in Malaysia is due to its exclusivity. 

“The transition to EVs is simply an idea whose time has come. The technology is better and will improve even more as it progresses,” he said. 

On the contrary, Ng Eu Gene, 33, believed that the exemption of tax and road tax for EV was the catalyst to the trend of EV adoption in Malaysia, which prompted him to come on board. 

“BYD, one of the cheapest EVs at the moment, currently only carries one model which is the Atto 3. It is selling like hot cakes, and the showroom is always full of visitors. 

“My wife and I started looking at EV right after the tax exemption announcement and free road tax,” he said to TMR. 

Ng himself drives a Tesla Model Y, while his wife drives the BYD Atto 3. 

Common Problems With EV 

Sharing his experience of driving EV all over the country, Farhan said to date, he has not encountered any problems with his cars. 

“My Tesla has clocked 73,000km while the Kia EV6 is already at 23,000km. In the early days, as my Tesla is built in the US, I do have some complaints on the built quality from the Fremont factory. 

“But once you enter and experience the drive of the Tesla, I tend to forget about the nuisance of the exterior built quality. 

“Another initial problem in 2020 was having the range anxiety as back then there were only two fast chargers in the entire North-South Expressway, one at the Ayer Keroh RnR and one at the Bukit Gantang RnR. However, even with these limited chargers in my first week owning the Tesla, I did 4,000km mileage on a Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Johor Baru (JB)-KL-Kuantan-Kuala Terengganu-Kuantan-KL-Penang trip within the span of one week,” he said. 

Farhan added that after the Tesla 2020 model came out, he decided to go full electric and sold his hybrid XC90 in July 2022 and changed it to the Kia EV6. 

Similarly, Shahrol said the dearth of fast charging stations when travelling outside of Klang Valley, particularly on the East Coast, is an issue for EV owners. 

Meanwhile, Ng disliked the unwanted attention and questions from the public directed at him because EV is still considered uncommon in his area. 

“Other than that, so far so good compared to my previous internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. 

“My wife and I enjoy driving the EV, especially for long distances, with one-pedal drive and adaptive cruise control. This technology makes our long-distance journey comfortable and safe,” he added. 

EV Maintenance Procedure 

Due to the early stage of adoption in Malaysia, the public seem still perplexed about EV maintenance. 

Compare to an ICE vehicle, all three Tesla drivers said no periodic maintenance is required. 

The only wear-and-tear components that need to be replaced are the wiper blade, tyres and its rotation, air-conditioning filter, brake fluid, brake pad and coolant for battery and motor cooling. 

Furthermore, all three respondents said their EV servicing fees ranged from none to a very minimal cost. 

“It is very different from regular vehicle maintenance. I do not need to make appointments with the service centre weeks ahead, queue for my turn and wait for my ICE vehicle to get it serviced every three to five months. 

“I also do not need to worry about the tyre pressure as the EV is equipped with a tyre pressure monitoring system which allows me to see the tyre pressure while driving,” Ng said. 

Meanwhile, the Atto 3 has scheduled maintenance which only requires owners to visit the service centre once a year because EV has fewer moving parts and less maintenance required. 

“So far, I spent nothing maintaining my EV except for the weekly home charging and outstation direct current (DC) charging fee. 2022 was definitely the honeymoon year for public charging because many new charging stations rolled out with free charging. 

“We travelled to Penang and JB from KL without spending a single cent on charging,” Ng further explained. 

Trend Versus Early Adopters 

Farhan said he was very impressed with the technology when he first test-drove the Tesla model in 2017, which convinced him to own one. 

“It is not about the market readiness that influenced me. It was more of the thrill of becoming an early adopter,” TMR was told. 

Meanwhile, Shahrol believed that EVs were the future of technology and wished to experience them first-hand. 

Ng, on the other hand, said learning about EVs is essential before purchasing them. 

He said Facebook groups such as the Malaysia Electric Vehicle Owners Club are extremely beneficial to first-time EV owners. 

Whether or not the infrastructure is ready for EV adoption, he said it can never be ready if nobody starts using EVs. 

“It will have to happen simultaneously where more EVs and more public charges will grow together. It is a chicken and egg ques-ion after all. The demand and supply curves will adjust themselves,” he added. 

Ng said before buying the Tesla and Atto 3, he and his wife rented two different EVs, a Renault Zoe and a Nissan Leaf, for a week to learn what an EV is, how the driving behaviour differs and to familiarise themselves with the public chargers in their area. 

“I would suggest trying out the EV yourself to feel the difference considering that many are still sceptical with EVs,” he said. 

The lack of fast charging stations outside of Klang Valley or on the East Coast will be an issue for EV owners (pic: Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

EV Sales In Malaysia 

The most popular EV brand at the G-Mart EV Centre in Bandar Baru Bangi is Tesla, owing to the minimalistic approach to the car, the technology loaded, the car’s connectivity and the so-called “zero maintenance per view”. 

The Tesla Model 3 is the best-seller, followed by the Tesla Model Y. 

G-Mart group business development director Nicholas Dev Kaneson said, however, the Ora Good Cat is rapidly catching up due to its manufacturer backup (Great Wall Motor Co Ltd’s presence in Malaysia) and direct manufacturer expertise. 

Customers are more confident in the company as a result of these factors, he opined, compared to Tesla, which is still reliant on third-party expertise. 

“I anticipate that Ora will boom in Malaysia with more affordable price offerings and cute vintage designs. 

“Currently Ora has two models, namely the 500km range and 400km range. In the pipeline is the smaller version Ora Black Cat,” he told TMR. 

He added that this year, we may see battery EVs priced between RM100,000 and RM120,000. 

“Even though there will be a Malaysian-made EV, the price will still be around that range simply because of the economic scale. 

“The number of EV production is not as high as ICE cars. Also, currently, Malaysia does not have an EV expert factory,” he said. 

In terms of current total global production, Nicholas said production for 2023 is expected to touch 20% globally. 

“It is a long way for Malaysia to get the pricing at par with ICE vehicles, but thanks to Chinese manufacturers who could drag the cost pretty low, we have cars like the Ora priced at RM139,000 compared to Tesla which costs at least RM240,000, while 2019-2020 recond car will cost around RM220,000,” he said, adding that the price of a Tesla also depends on the country of origin, as well as the specification it comes with. 

Tesla from the UK comes with full specs, while Tesla from Japan, Hong Kong and New Zealand cost slightly lower. 

Nicholas, who has driven the MG ZS all the way to Thailand, said he is satisfied with the overall EV performance. 

“I think now is the right time to purchase an EV. The only concern is that consumers have to plan journeys including booking for chargers and staying at hotels with charging infrastructure,” he added. 

For public charging, some chargers charge RM1 per minute while others charge RM4 a minute. DC chargers will be slightly more expensive than alternating current chargers. 

Tesla Centre In Malaysia 

Nicholas anticipated that Tesla is opening a centre in Malaysia, even though it affects people’s wait-and-see approach as EVs are not considered an urgent need. 

“I believe Tesla owners in Malaysia are looking more towards direct support from Tesla, as opposed to third parties but there may be additional charges. 

“Now MITI is negotiating with Tesla Malaysia on how the latter can support without burdening existing owners and make it a win-win situation,” he said. 

To date, the EV brands available at G-Mart include Tesla, Ora, BYD, Porsche, Ford Mustang, Mercedes, Nissan and MG, among others. 

As of last year, 500 EV units arrived at its centre in Bangi and only 140 units are left (as of April 5) with Tesla being the most available brand.


  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition