Malaysia’s long and windy road toward electric vehicle adoption

By Dominic Tham


AS people become more aware of the need to protect our environment, the demand for electric cars have been increasing worldwide. To date, Norway has the highest number of plug-in electric cars per capita followed by California, Sweden and China.

However, despite the increasing awareness on environmental protection in Malaysia, the number of electric vehicle (EV) users within the country is still low with only about 5,500 EVs reported in August 2019.

This is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 31.2 million motor vehicles registered with the Road Transport Department in Malaysia around the same period.

The popular brands of EVs in Malaysia today are mainly from Toyota, Nissan and Honda, while recently more EVs from luxury car makers like BMW and Mercedes are also seen on our roads.

The main reason Malaysians still shy away from EVs is the lack of infrastructure and demand, which are also the reasons why local car makers have yet to venture in the EV industry. Even homegrown carmaker Proton have not yet ventured aggressively in this sector.

Proton Holdings Bhd sales and marketing vice-president, Roslan Abdullah was reported to have said that lack of infrastructure such as charging facilities were deterring Malaysians from switching from petrol and diesel engine vehicles to EVs.

Imagine driving from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu without having any charging facilities along the way. At the end of the day, it boils down to consumer demand.

At present, EVs can go anywhere between 100 miles (160km) and over 400 miles on a single charge. Before EVs become more widely acceptable, proper infrastructure must be put in place on top of incentives like subsidies from the government.

But therein lies a problem: Malaysia’s top money-earner is petrol and it seems counter-intuitive to promote vehicles that do not run on petrol or diesel. But in the long-run, the shift towards green energy is unavoidable, in tandem with the global shift towards environmentally-friendly consumption patterns.

But affordability remains a major hurdle. The eco-friendly machines that are offered in Malaysia above RM100,000, despite models like Nissan Leaf which benefit from low sales tax.

For manufacturers to bring in electric cars, there needs to be a minimum amount of interest in their products, and currently, Malaysians still prefer their old gas-guzzlers rather than EVs.

So, while many Malaysians would love to do their part to help conserve the environment by shifting to green vehicles, the many drawbacks still deter many.

However, with increasing pressure from global organisations pressing for greater environmental conservation, it is time our government put in place more focus on enhancing the use of EVs. – Feb 26, 2021


Dominic Tham is a Focus Malaysia editorial contributor

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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