A Call to Action – Accelerate EV Adoption in Malaysia

Accelerate EV Adoption in Malaysia

By Datuk Shahrol Halmi

Published Date 7  April 2022

This paper focuses on battery electric vehicles (BEV) as opposed to other forms of EVs such as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) and fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV), although where appropriate PHEVs and FCEVs will be mentioned.

The EV Consumer Environment

The main difference between the internal combustion engine (ICE) consumer environment and the EV one is that the “fuelling infrastructure” for ICE is already fully developed, while the charging infrastructure for EVs needs to expand ahead of EV sales.

We can see this idea of “EV Sales depend on Charging Infrastructure” being successfully implemented by Tesla since 2013, via the implementation of its very easily accessible Supercharger network.

The VW Group has also realised selling EVs require investments in charging infrastructure and have set up, together with BMW, Hyundai, Ford and Daimler, the Ionity charging network in Europe. They are also partnering with Iberdola, ENEL and BP.

What would it take to get people to even consider buying an EV in Malaysia?

One of the most common concerns we hear when the subject of EVs is discussed centers around the charging infrastructure. As we can see from a recent BFM Twitter poll below, 40% of respondents won’t consider an EV until they feel comfortable with the charging infrastructure. Cost is also a concern, but that comes later in the buying process.

It is also important to note the distinction between the charging requirements for BEV vs PHEVs.

While overnight home charging is equally important for both, BEVs, due to their longer electric range, would require fewer AC public charging points in urban areas as compared to rapid DC charging on the highways.

PHEVs would not be charging along the highways on their outstation trips, as their charging speeds are very low and it would make the journey time unacceptably long.

We do observe, however, that buyers just want to be assured that the public charging infrastructure is adequate – whether they will actually use them is irrelevant to the buying process.

All available data suggests that the vast majority of EV drivers will seldom utilise public charging, if they have access to overnight charging at home.

This means that, as per what Tesla did, the charging infrastructure has to be vastly “overbuilt” in terms of locations and numbers of stalls, in order to overcome the consumers’ reluctance to even consider an EV as their next car.

Once this hurdle is passed, the next question is:

What would it take for people to actually buy an EV in Malaysia?

Purchase Price

EVs have not yet achieved price parity with comparable ICE cars. Some experts say due to manufacturing scale and technology improvements, price parity will be reached sometime before 2025 in established EV markets such as the EU and China. The price parity will gradually trickle down to other developing markets in due course.

In the meantime, successful EV adoption means that cleverly designed taxes on ICE vehicles and purchase incentives on EVs must be used for the consumer to see price parity between comparable ICE and EV cars. See example from Norway below:

Operating Costs

As part of the purchase consideration, consumers will also compare maintenance and operating costs between EVs and ICE cars.

While it is proven that due to fewer moving parts, EVs require less maintenance than ICE cars (no regular oil changes, for example) there is still widespread concern around battery repair costs.

In addition, since Malaysia’s petrol and diesel prices are relatively low, the cost advantage of charging at home is quite small.

Proposed Ideas to Move Forward

1. Set a target of 1 public charging station for every 10 plug-in vehicles (BEV and PHEVs), as what the EU has declared. One idea is to have all OEMs that sell BEVs and PHEVs to set these up, either doing it themselves or via collaboration with private charging operators (CPO). 

2. Implement the National EV Charging Corridor with rapid DC charging parks approximately every 200km:

3. Ensure adequate competition and a level playing field for CPOs. CPO to get special electricity tariffs from TNB for these charging parks and discounted “connection charges” at least for the next 3-5 years, while the market is growing.

4. Improve access to overnight charging via implementing a “Right to Charge” rule for existing multi-user dwellings such as condos and flats. New commercial/office and residential buildings must include a set ratio of charging stations per resident/tenant, before their development plans are to be approved by the local authorities.5. Implement special tariffs for residential/domestic TNB customers to lower EV charging costs. Need to watch out for high one-time costs to the consumer (e.g. additional meter and wiring) for solutions such as a separate meter for home chargers. Time of Use tariff might be more useful as it helps TNB manage power demand on the grid, as illustrated below:

6. 100% discount on road tax for BEVs, at least until the current kW-based vs engine displacement road calculations are replaced with something more reasonable, such as emissions-based taxes.

zeva ev

7. Re-instate the 100% tax exemptions (import, excise and SST) for EVs. Include grey/parallel imports in this category, to enable more choices across all segments.


Datuk Shahrol Halmi is Vice President of Zero Emission Vehicle Association (ZEVA), presenting the voice of the EV owners in Malaysia. He himself is the President and Co-Founder of the Malaysian EV Owners Club (MyEVOC). MyEVOC was formed in May 2019 with the intent of creating awareness, dispelling myths around electric vehicles and most of all, represent the users view to both industry and regulatory bodies. Shahrol himself has been an EV driver since 2017. 

Shahrol was formerly the President and CEO of the Malaysian Petroleum Resources Corporation (MPRC), a government agency under the Prime Minister’s Department. He was also a Director in the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), looking after the Energy, Oil and Gas as well as Financial Services sectors for the Economic Transformation Program. 

Prior to his stint at a wealth management fund, Shahrol was a partner in Accenture, a Management Consulting firm in Kuala Lumpur. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Electrical Engineering.