Electric vehicles are the face of future mobility

  • Living
  • Sunday, 01 Feb 2015

During the Melaka Go to Green campaign, an electric bus was used as a sightseeing bus in Malacca. Filepic

Malaysia goes down the electric path for a smaller carbon footprint.

IMAGINE driving a car without needing to pump petrol or diesel, or having your engine oil changed at the workshop. The advent of electric vehicles has made this possible, and is redefining the face of conventional transportation.

Electric vehicles are taking overseas markets by storm as more users embrace the eco-friendly path advocated through the design of these cars – no tailpipe emissions means no pollution and no carbon releases. This green mobility, however, is still very much in its infancy in Malaysia.

The database of the Road Transport Department shows only 1,024 electric cars and motorcycles were sold from 2011 until September 2014. To turn things around, the Malaysian Green Technology Corp (GreenTech Malaysia), a government agency under the purview of the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, is pushing for electric-powered mobility this year.

Its chief executive officer Ahmad Hadri Haris says the corporation has secured a RM3mil funding from the Malaysian Electricity Supply Industry Trust Account, a division under the ministry, for building 300 charging stations nationwide by 2016.

“We have about 40 (charging stations) currently in the Klang Valley, Malacca, Pahang, Penang and Sarawak. These were built by our partner First Energy Networks (the provider of charging systems for electric vehicles in Malaysia),” he says.

“The charging stations can be installed in your home. It’s liberating, as your car can be left to charge overnight while you are asleep. This saves time from having to go to petrol stations.”

An electric vehicle charging station that the public can use for free is located at the Petaling Jaya City Council headquarters. Filepic

He admits however, that the main challenge to purchasing electric vehicles is the cost. An electric vehicle without tax costs about RM130,000 but with tax, the price exceeds RM180,000. Ahmad Hadri hopes the government will review the import tax and excise duty for such vehicles as the high charges have deterred more people from owning them.

“The electric vehicle market in Malaysia took off just last year though historically, it had started in 1998 when then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad initiated a venture between Proton and Tenaga Nasional. However, the initiative didn’t take off as we were ahead of our time in usage of electric vehicles.”

Under the agency’s Electric Mobility Flagship programme, the goal is to have 2,000 electric buses, 100,000 electric cars, and 100,000 electric scooters and motorcycles on the road by 2020. In addition, some 125,000 public charging stations are to be installed.

Ahmad Hadri says the intangible benefits are evident in the long run. “This migration (to electric mobility) will potentially help reduce Malaysia’s carbon contribution from the transportation sector by 1.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, based on our analysis. Cities and densely-populated areas already suffer from high levels of air and noise pollution contributed by vehicles running on internal combustion engines.”

But there is also the argument that electric cars might not necessarily be greener as the electricity could have come from coal-fired power plants, which produce carbon emissions. In response, Ahmad Hadri says the energy burnt at power plants (to generate electricity) is more efficient than energy burnt by internal combustion engines.

During the Melaka Go to Green campaign, an electric bus was used as a sightseeing bus in Malacca. Filepic

According to the Energy Commission, gas and coal are the most-used fuels for power generation, at 49.4% and 42.6% respectively, followed by hydroelectric at 4.8% and oil/distillate at 2.5%.

Therefore, coal is poised to remain as the main fuel for power generation in light of an additional 5,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity that will be commissioned from 2015 to 2019.

“To really walk the sustainable path, electric vehicle users could opt to install solar panels at home to draw on that power for charging an electric vehicle. At our office, we power up our electric cars via solar energy.”

GreenTech vice-president (built environment) Mohamed Azrin Mohamed Ali says there are various types of charging station available – each designed for different locations such as the home, office buildings, malls and public spots.

Car dealers will offer the option of installing a charging station at home to purchasers of electric vehicles.

The agency is also collaborating with Amdac (producer and supplier of tailor-made vehicles) while BYD (an automobile manufacturer from China) to deploy 55 electric buses in the Klang Valley and Malacca, as well as with Eclimo to introduce more electric scooters in the country.

Currently, KFC and Pizza Hut are using 150 electric scooters in their delivery fleets while the police’s Armanita Patrol Unit have 33.

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