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Do We Need DC Superfast Charging Stations Everywhere?

EvGuru visited different premises, including shopping malls, office buildings, condominiums/apartments, shop lots, and hotels. During our engagements with the public, a common question was whether having a DC superfast charging station was reasonable.

DC Superfast Charging Stations, as the name explains, function like Tesla Superfast Charging Stations, which can fully charge your EV in merely 30 minutes. It sounds like a perfect idea. Doesn't it? However, the investment cost is high. A DC superfast charging station with a high capacity (180kW) starts from RM200,000; the lowest capacity DC charger (30kW) will cost you RM60,000 at least.

Undoubtedly, it's a good investment if the DC charging station attracts high user traffic. However, the reality is, unfortunately, disappointing. As of 2 February 2023 (the date this article was written), less than 3000 units of EVs are registered in Malaysia, a country with over 20 million registered vehicles (including commercial and heavy automobiles). Despite the number of electric cars increasing by over 100% every year, the number is not enough to support an influx of DC charging stations.

The big cities in Malaysia, such as Klang Valley and Penang, have sufficient EV charging stations. Most popular shopping malls in Klang Valley already have EV charging stations. However, more often than not, the EV charging bays are vacant. On average, less than three shopping malls have their EV charging stations occupied almost always.

What does this observation tell us? The available EV charging stations are far more than the required capacity, and Malaysia doesn't have enough electric cars to sustain all the public EV charging stations. Luckily, the situation is bound to improve gradually. We probably need at least five years or more of steady adoption to see more EVs on the roads and, thus, the demand for more public charging stations.

As stressed, the situation will only improve. National carmakers like Perodua & Proton have a 60% market share in Malaysia, and producing their own EVs will be a prodigious catalyst for widespread EV adoption in the country. Toyota and Honda follow closely in the market share.

The increasing number of EVs manufactured in South East Asia will also be a contributing factor due to the ASEAN Free Trade Area Agreements. BYD, a China brand manufactured in Thailand, is a great example that has boosted the number of EVs in Malaysia.

With this in mind, investing over RM200,000 in a DC superfast charging station may be unwise because we don't see when we can get back the ROI (Return on Investment). Up to date, only cash-rich corporates, especially the oil and gas companies, will put down this money to set up DC superfast charging stations at some of their petrol stations to fight for the market share. It is understandable when Electric Vehicles are directly threatening their core business - oil & gas. Decades later, if ICE cars are no longer on the roads, there will be no demand for oil. Therefore, they will invest big money to retain the market share.

Does it mean we should not set up any public charging stations?

No. This is also not true. It's a chicken and egg dilemma. If there are insufficient EV charging stations, people are also far less likely to purchase an EV. In fact, AC chargers are an ideal option to test the market. An AC charging station costs around RM5000 to set up (case-by-case basis). If the AC charging station attracts overwhelming demand, we could consider adding more AC charging stations. Or add a mid-capacity DC charging station.

Comparatively, a few thousand of investment is worth testing the market, yet, it improves the property value (EV charging stations tend to attract EV users, who are mainly middle class).

Aren't AC Charging Stations Too Slow?

Technically yes, it takes at least 4 hours to charge an EV, depending on your car model.

However, it wouldn't be an issue if these AC charging stations were installed in condominiums, apartments, office buildings, shopping malls, and cinemas. Most of us are not heavy drivers; we only drive during the day and rest at night. For this reason, you can plug in the car before going to bed, and it will be fully charged the following day.

Similarly, at office buildings, we spend half of our day working in the office, so we can leave it charging and leave for home with a fully charged EV. Although charging requires several hours, we spend long hours at the location anyway, so it won't be a problem.

Also, one full charge lasts about a week (a normal urbanite driving behavior), and a 2 - 3 hours charge lasts 2-3 days. Remember, you don't have to get the EVs fully charged at all times (just like ICE car owners don't always fill the tank).

EV charging is far easier than you can imagine. Please feel free to talk to an EV driver and see their experience. Their testimony is more powerful than these words.

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