Observers: Unrealistic for govt to make EVs affordable due to high ownership, maintenance costs

The Malaysian government’s desire to make electric vehicles (EVs) affordable is unlikely to succeed in the short term as they are still too expensive to purchase, and cost a bomb to service, say industry insiders.

Kon Wai Luen, the editor of e-magazine Aurizn, said the country lacked the proper infrastructure to achieve the goal of having EVs make up 15 per cent of the Total Industry Volume in Malaysia by 2030, up to 38 per cent by 2040, and ultimately, 80 per cent by 2050.

Those were the figures quoted by International Trade and Industry (MITI) Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz after launching the first Tesla Centre in Malaysia in Cyberjaya on Oct 2.

Tengku Zafrul also said the government wanted to make it possible for those in the B40 and M40 income groups to afford EVs “through targeted subsidies and financial assistance”.

“It is not sustainable for the government to artificially reduce the cost (of EVs). Let the rich be the early adopters. Build EVs up to a critical mass, and car makers will gradually reduce prices as the cost of production decreases,” said Kon.

“EVs are simpler to build than conventional cars because of fewer moving components, but the most expensive component is the battery.”

Kon said Tengku Zafrul had talked about ramping up efforts to expand and enhance the nation’s EV charging infrastructure, but there was another problem.

“The bigger question is, can our power grid handle the consumption of 500,000 to one million electric vehicles?” he asked.

Kon suggested that the government invest in EVs for public transportation to help reduce carbon emissions, while slowly building up the EV infrastructure.

Asked if there was a need for an awareness campaign to get more people to buy EVs, Kon said consumers already know of the benefits, but agreed there were several other areas that needed highlighting.

“Consumers know EVs are the future. Perhaps, they need to be educated on how EVs are different from conventional cars, and how to get the best out of their EV ownership and driving experience,” he said.

“Get the car makers involved. It could be a part of their marketing, and I am sure they would be glad to help, at least those with a big portfolio of EV products.”

Hezeri Samsuri, founder of automotive website, said servicing EVs is expensive as companies use proprietary technology that makes it difficult for third parties to repair the vehicles.

He also echoed Kon’s views that the cost of an EV and their batteries are beyond the reach of ordinary folks, let alone those in the B40 group.

Hezeri, who owns an EV, also pointed out other issues.

“The second-hand value is low. What happens to the batteries that need to be disposed of? Do the firefighters have enough equipment to deal with burning EVs?

“Long-term car loans, which result in many buying vehicles they cannot afford, is another issue. The automotive world is not designed for such a long loan tenure.”

Hezeri said there were many other issues plaguing the EV industry.

“One problem is that ‘some people upstairs’ (decision makers) usually give suggestions without realising what it means to those on the ground,” he said.

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