Bye-bye ICE, the future is electric

Like so many owners of traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars, I am not overly enamoured with the prospect of giving up pumping pistons for the whirring whine of electric motors.

But after a hectic week of electric immersion – with more to come, I do believe the Grim Reaper is soon to call time on belching exhausts, as we brace ourselves to switch, and truly usher in the age of Electric Vehicles (EVs).

My week of high voltage intensity and charging energy began on a Tuesday, with a trip up the North-South Highway and making a stop at the Behrang layby.

The great and the good representing every level of  the EV industry were huddled under a marquee, in rather soggy circumstances following a non-stop early morning drizzle, to witness the launch of Malaysia’s first modular portable EV fast-charging station with battery energy storage.

Site landlord in this venture is the national highway operator PLUS (Projek Lebuhraya Utara Selatan), while clean energy solutions provider Gentari, and its partner EV Connection Sdn Bhd (EVC), provided the technical solution.

Interestingly, the Norwegian ambassador was present, pointing to Norse technical input in the charging set-up. As we all know, Gentari is a Petronas affiliate – and you know where the national oil company is coming from. More importantly, it knows where it is headed – into sustainable energy, which means it is preparing for a shift from fossil fuels, in anticipation of the day when oil’s no longer (s)well. (sic)

Works Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi was also in attendance, driven in an EV from Tanjong Malim, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion. (You’ll see where I am driving at with my take on the ministerial presence in such EV events in a bit).

Thursday came, and my mood was black – not in angst but the colour scheme pervasive during the Tesla event. The floor-to-ceiling drapes and backdrop, the greeting card in sealed envelope, the press release folder, and Tesla staff attire appears corporate de rigueur – black is its chosen colour!

Tesla – minus Elon Musk – took the occasion to launch the Tesla Model 3 together with its first Experience Centre in spiffy Bangsar. Order now and you need only to wait for delivery in December – which is quite quick!

Present at the launch was another government minister – Datuk Nga Kor Ming. You might ask why the Local Government Development minister was present at a car launch, wouldn’t you?

I also spied the presence of Bursa Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar in the VIP row. When asked; “Tan Sri, apa buat sini,” he glowingly replied; “Waiting for delivery of my Tesla”. There was also in attendance a former media colleague who now handles government relations at Grab – who was also looking forward to the December delivery date.

December is significant – why? Ha ha, we are one up on the Brits. Apparently, order your Tesla Model 3 now in the United Kingdom, and delivery will only be in January – eat your heart out Rishi!

Tesla, as a car brand, is like the iPhone. Everyone – well, almost everyone, wants one. So, that means the traditional way of winning over the media by way of marketing, engagement, and news coverage, is so different from them “good ‘ol days”. Suffice to say, Tesla does not need to cosy up and ‘wine’ the media with elaborate pampering – and the local media had better get used to this new reality.

The way Tesla does business is unlike other traditional car companies, too – it does not sell through franchised dealerships but direct to consumers. It has its own showrooms – called Experience Centres. Others employ salesmen, here they – dressed in black get up – are Tesla Advisors. The focus is on customer service and if you care to inquire, you’ll learn the perky young ‘advisor force’ come from a diverse, consumer-related background. You can find an ex-cabin crew or two from amongst their ranks.

The Tesla Model 3 is offered in rear-wheel, and long-range all-wheel drive variants. Prices start from RM189,000 and RM218,000 respectively.

One thing about EVs, the acceleration is mind-bogglingly quick – it shifts from 0-100kph in a blinding 4.4 secs. For now, the maximum range achievable on one full charge is a generous 629km.

Friday rolled on and I headed for the CCB (Cycle and Carriage Bhd) showroom in Mutiara Damansara and ‘yesterday’ could not be more different from ‘holy day’ – than chalk is to cheese.

Here’s a brand that already sits grandly and comfortably at the top of the premium luxury automotive segment. You’d find its hospitality with the media a lot more fraternal.

It introduced the EQS SUV in a simple ceremony taking just two hours of the busy automotive journalists’ schedule, but it was classy all the way!

Let me steer you through the alphabet soup concocted by Mercedes, so we speak the same language. Alphabetically, EQ may stand for Emotional Quotient to measure Intelligence. In the realm of EVs therefore, every model that carries the iconic 3-pointed star begins with the EQ prefix.

Mercedes took the liberty of co-opting both Emotion and Intelligence to become its guiding principles, as the luxury brand pivots towards climate-neutral and sustainable design. Petrol heads already are familiar with its offering of Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) models as opposed to staid sedans, so let’s motor on.

The figure ‘6’ is somehow etched in the mind simply because this EQS has a range of 600km, and at the same time, costs a cool RM600k +.

As the two were launch events, the actual test drives will be some way off and we will surely bring it to you in the not-too-distant future.

Now what about them ministers? Let me liberally ‘mis’-interpret C. Northcote Parkinson who posited that the amount of work expands with the time available. Malaysia will not lack for official ministerial interest in our EV drive. At the forefront are four ministers making robust pronouncements about how the government will lay the groundwork and facilitate its implementation. The Transport minister talks about charging stations on our public highways, the Works minister will keep an eye on, or propose infrastructure improvements, Environment and Climate Change will deal with sustainability issues, while the Local Government Development ministry will have a say on the provision of charging ports in buildings and high-rise apartments.

The more the minister(s), the merrier I say – so long as the job gets done! Parkinson is smiling up there somewhere.

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