Like the smartphone adoption cycle, the fuss around electric cars will soon shift into an unwritten necessity to own one. The numbers are promising, and with countries like Malaysia setting out plans and pledges to develop EV infrastructure, we expect a seamless transition.
For instance, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), the Malaysian multinational electricity company, has pledged an RM90 million investment towards EV charging infrastructure along the North-South Expressway in the next three years. And with more similar plans on the conduit, we estimate the Southeast Asian nation will have 18,000 charging stations for half a million EVs in 2030.
BEVs Vs. FCEVs
Electric cars mean only one thing to most people: Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). And while they make up the chunk of the EVs, FCEVs are also gaining traction. Instead of using an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), these electric cars use hydrogen as a fuel source.
This article will focus mainly on BEVs, a relatively easy-to-understand phenomenon. These cars use rechargeable lithium batteries that power an onboard electric motor, ultimately turning the wheels like regular petrol or diesel car.
Luckily, turning wheels is the only aspect that unites Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars and EVs. The latter is more sustainable in a world where the fossil fuel reserves that the former relies on are fast depleting.
Most importantly, electric cars promote clean driving, shunning the harmful exhaust emissions common with petrol and diesel-powered vehicles.
Are We Ready?
Even before the COVID-19 epidemic hit the globe, automakers were well into their research and testing work, with electric cars hitting the streets in huge numbers. The sporadic fuel crisis, in particular, has fueled the need for alternative means of powering automobiles, with electricity, hydrogen, and solar emerging as the best options.
Like other global institutions, the Malaysian government embarked on an aggressive campaign in 2021, offering incentives and perks to EV adopters. The intelligent move is part of a long-term acceleration effort to make the Asian country a pacesetter in the EV manufacturing and supply chain market.
ICEs and EVs. The Significant Differences!
The main physical difference between an ICE car and an electric vehicle is the absence of a large, often cumbersome engine. EVs are much 'emptier' considering the alternative; lithium batteries are considerably smaller. And besides being lighter and straightforward to handle, EV batteries can be positioned on the front or rear axle, leaving the designers with more room to stretch their imagination.
The fuel tank vs. battery is another contracting feature between ICE cars and electric vehicles. And while the tank is the least of your worries, unless it's empty, the EV's battery is one of the most important facets of your automotive. Despite the small size, these lithium batteries' composition and energy capacity greatly affect how many miles the vehicle can travel on a single charge.
Just as you stop at the gas station to top your car, you'll need to make arrangements on how to recharge the batteries. Unfortunately, recharging your battery isn't as snappy as filling the tank – it takes hours to replenish.
So, you'll need a little pre-planning to identify your car's rest times, mostly at night, and use these periods to charge up. For this reason, you must put up a charging station at home. This way, you'll replenish the charge when the car is not in use, so it's always ready to hit the road.
Besides owning a good-quality electric car, the number of available charging stations is essential. Do you have a charging station at home? How about public stations? Is a DC-powered charging station nearby when you need a public station?
We recommend starting by commissioning a charging station at home to recharge the car at night, so you have topped up batteries in the morning, ready to power your car throughout your daily errands. Unlike public stations, having one at home allows you to charge up as frequently and conveniently as your schedule permits.
In addition, having an abundance of public charging stations in your area means you can always stop by for a quick 'refill' if you need one.
Home or Public Charging
As stressed before, home charging is a must when planning to own an electric car. Besides being convenient, it allows you to charge up as frequently depending on your daily schedule. In Malaysia, people with landed property can easily install a charging station, but the same can't be said about those living in condominiums and apartments. Installing a private charging station in most apartments is lengthy and hectic.
All is not lost, though. There are notable property developments that have embraced the EV movement in Malaysia. They include:
Malaysia lags in the number of public chargers (AC), posing a great challenge to the full gear EV adoption vigour. Luckily, recent numbers are positive, and we're witnessing a shift in public infrastructure. For instance, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) has pledged to invest RM90 million to support the electric car ecosystem, a project touted to build close to 20,000 charging points in the next eight years to match the estimated half a million EVs power needs.
While the initial cost of buying an EV might be high, these electric cars are more economical than ICE cars. Even better, the former will continue to be more affordable as we develop cleaner and less expensive ways to develop electricity.
In fact, the number of EVs launched is rising, and the price will also go down gradually.
Cost of Maintenance
Unlike regular petrol or diesel-powered cars, electric vehicles have fewer moving parts. For this reason, the possibility of mechanical failure is minimal. In addition, replacing the stocky engine with rechargeable lithium batteries removes the need for oil and fluid changes, among other routine maintenance headaches. The tires and windshield washer fluid replacement will be your only worries.
Minor Issues to Expect
Unfortunately, the EV industry is over-reliant on lithium, a rare metal excavated from the ground. The non-renewable material goes against the principles of clean and sustainable resources, a key factor that could affect the availability and cost of electric cars.
Like other rechargeable batteries, expect your EV's batteries to degrade over time. The gradual dilapidation means the battery won't hold as much charge the more you use it. In addition, these batteries are reliant on the availability of scarce and non-renewable lithium, which is pricey, and replacing the degraded batteries will certainly not be cheap.
Note: The latest advancements in battery technology cast hope for the future. Graphene and solid-state cells are continually being researched, and the progress is reassuring.
The last few years have seen a boom in EV adoption and government efforts to streamline the process. Car manufacturers have gone all out, developing decade-long strategies for electrified powertrains.
The Malaysian government has worked to position the country as a regional hub for manufacturing while fuelling EV adoption. But to achieve tangible success, more needs to be done. For starters, government support must be long-term, emphasising the extension of EV-friendly policies. For instance, the EV waiver on road tax, import duty, and exercise duty expires in 2025, and failure to extend it might cause a momentum shift.
The country also needs to do more on the infrastructure front. The only roadmap to a reliable and successful EV mass adoption is the mobilisation of relevant authorities and players to equip Malaysia with enough charging stations to meet the expected demand.
Lastly, in liaison with car makers, the government ought to ensure the provision of more affordable EV options. Today, the average electric car price exceeds most of the Malaysian population. The price ceiling has to be reduced significantly if we're to achieve massive uptake in the country.
( For Condo )