Is Malaysia Ready For Higher Adoption Of Electric Vehicles?

atuk Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi remembers the day he started driving his first all-electric Tesla car in 2017 when there were very few public charging stations in peninsular Malaysia. 

The co-founder of the Malaysian Electric Vehicle Owners Club (MyEVOC) said at that time, it was a huge challenge for electric vehicle (EV) users to travel long distances outside the Klang Valley due to 'range anxiety'. (Range anxiety refers to the concern about the distance an EV can travel on a single charge – and the fear of not being able to find a charging point on time to replenish the battery.) 

"My car can go up to 400 kilometres per charge, so there wasn't really much of an issue for daily driving, especially with overnight home charging. 

"At that time, the only charging network available was ChargEV, operated by Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Corporation (MGTC), and I had to rely on their app to know which stations were available. Reliability was a big issue so I felt discouraged from making long trips back then," he told Bernama. 

MGTC (previously known as Malaysian Green Technology Corporation) introduced chargEV  the brand name of its public EV charging station network – in 2015,

However, the majority of the charging stations were located in the Klang Valley, covering Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding cities and towns in Selangor as well as major urban areas along the west coast and towards the southern part of the peninsula.  

Since then, the situation has improved by leaps and bounds. Currently, there is keen competition among the more than a dozen charging point operators vying for customers and the best locations to install their charging ports, according to Shahrol Azral who was former president and chief executive officer of Malaysian Petroleum Resource Corporation.

Having an adequate number of public EV charging stations is vital to promote the widespread use of EVs, alleviate 'range anxiety' and prevent the possibility of motorists being stranded.



"The KL-Penang charger coverage has been improving but travelling to the east coast (of the peninsula) is still difficult and requires careful planning," he said. 

A study by Deloitte on the 2023 Global Automotive Consumer Study Southeast Asia Perspectives published in March 2023 revealed that the biggest concern Malaysians have regarding battery-powered EVs is the lack of public chargers.

Electric Vehicles' charging stations available to users at Cyberjaya

Most EV users described the east coast of peninsular Malaysia as an 'EV desert', where charging stations are few and far between. 

A check by Bernama using the PlugShare application (a public platform that keeps track of the number of charging stations as reported by users) showed that at the time of writing, there were 36 stations in Pahang, six in Terengganu and only five in Kelantan.

Shahrol Azral said Malaysia’s Low Carbon Mobility Blueprint (2021-2030) has set a target of 10,000 public charging stations by 2025.  

"As of August 2023, we only have 1,246 (charging stations) deployed while the charger deployment along the highways has seemingly stalled since the launch of TNB’s (Tenaga Nasional Bhd) Electron (charging station) in February this year," he said. 

On Sept 18, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the government agreed at the 42nd National Physical Planning Council meeting to improve the approval process for the construction of EV charging infrastructure through the Guidelines on Electric Vehicle Fast Charging Lots.

Anwar stressed the importance of the availability of charging infrastructure in the transformation of the country's automotive sector, saying it is in line with the National Energy Transition Roadmap 2023 which aims for 38 percent usage of EVs by 2040 and 80 percent by 2050.

This is also in line with Malaysia’s target of having 100,000 EVs on its roads by 2030, of which 50,000 are expected to be commercial EVs. To support EV penetration in Malaysia, the government announced EVs in Malaysia would not be subject to road tax until Dec 31, 2025.

However, industry players believe the government should not rely solely on the private sector to put up the EV charging stations but must also get the local authorities involved.



EV Connection Sdn Bhd/JomCharge managing director Lee Yuen How said although there is an improvement in the approval process in terms of the documentation to deploy charging points by the charge point operators (CPOs), the same cannot be said of the installation process on the ground.   

"The installation process also needs to be approved and it still takes a long time (to get the approval of local councils, landowners and so on) to deploy a charging point. The local authorities and landowners need more guidance to improve the approval process.

“This (delay in the approval process) is the challenge CPOs are currently facing in rolling out more charging points on the ground. Sometimes it takes us up to nine months for an installation to be made from start to finish," he said in his presentation titled ‘Addressing Challenges of Early Electric Vehicle Adopters in Malaysia' during a breakout session at the recent Energy Transition Conference 2023 organised by TNB here.  

One of the JomCharge EV charging point showcases at an exhibition held in Kuala Lumpur

Lee said with more EVs hitting Malaysian roads, there is a need to deploy more EV chargers not just at interstate highway stops, shopping malls and hotels but also in rural areas, especially on the east coast.

"In terms of EV adoption and acceleration, the government can help by providing incentives to (private CPOs) to boost (charging station) deployment in certain rural areas like (the) east coast, otherwise we would have to depend on corporations with 'deep pockets' such as TNB and Gentari (Sdn Bhd) to support the roll-out in the east coast," he said. 

GoCar Mobility Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Wong Hoe Mun hopes the government can help local CPOs such as JomCharge and Gentari to deploy more chargers by speeding up the approval process and collaborating with local councils as well as through policy.

"Currently, not many (local) councils are involved in deploying public chargers. Most of those available are private chargers owned by CPOs.

"For car-sharing operators like us, it would be great if our users could pick up their cars from one location at a council parking (lot), rent it for a few hours and leave it at another location that has free public charging facilities," he said, adding that countries like Norway have implemented free charging points for EV users.  



Besides the insufficient EV charging infrastructure, there are several other obstacles standing in the way of boosting the number of EVs on Malaysian roads.

Despite Malaysia being on the cusp of becoming a high-income country and government tax breaks offered on electric vehicles, EVs are still too expensive for most.

Locally assembled or locally produced EVs would bring prices further down and provide consumers with more options but Malaysia’s national carmakers – Proton Holdings Bhd and Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua) – currently do not have fully electric vehicles in their model line-up.  

However, Perodua recently said they have plans for the local assembly of EV models with their Japanese partner Daihatsu.

Having an adequate number of public EV charging stations is vital to promote the widespread use of EVs

Driven Communications Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Paul Tan, who is also an automotive blogger, said it will take time to achieve EV prices similar to that of the Perodua MyVi, an affordably priced car, adding the manufacturing and assembling must be done by the national brands.

However, he said it is impossible for imported EVs priced under RM100,000 to enter Malaysia for now due to the restrictions set by the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry (MITI).

According to MITI’s Franchise AP policy, a new completely built-up EV can only be imported into Malaysia if its price tag in the local market is above RM100,000. 

Zero Emission Vehicle Association president Wan Ahmad Zam Zam Wan Abd Wahab, meanwhile, said to attract foreign investors to Malaysia’s EV manufacturing sector, several crucial points need to be considered.

These include the necessity for long-term planning in strategy focusing on a five- to 10-year horizon rather than the short term; ensuring political and investment stability; and providing clarity in terms of the roadmap and path towards EV adoption and the ecosystem.

"Standardisation and clear policies need to be implemented by the government through the establishment of a specific 'one-stop centre' to handle EV adoption and policies," added Wan Ahmad Zam Zam. 

In March 2023, the government announced American electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors’ entry into Malaysia and in July, the automotive giant announced its strategic expansion into the Malaysian market through Tesla Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

According to a joint statement by Tesla and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority, the move is a direct response to the Battery Electric Vehicle Global Leaders Initiative introduced by the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry.

Tesla will set up a head office, sales centre and service centre in Malaysia. It will also install its ultra-fast chargers, hire a local workforce, train students, collaborate with academic institutions and work with local companies to develop the ecosystem for the charging infrastructure.


Edited by Rema Nambiar

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