Vision set by the National Automotive Policy, NAP 2014, towards creating Malaysia as the hub for Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) development and production has received positive respond, albeit industry players, government and public at large.
In a simple term EEVs are vehicles able to fulfil two essential criteria, namely; low or none emission propulsion satisfying the environmental greening initiatives and, low energy consumption for a set distance travelled. EEVs are future vehicles to satisfy the international demand for cleaner earth and global energy security.
While energy efficient internal combustion engine, or ICE, have become the main production focus by most local automotive manufacturers, some have now marketed their hybrid vehicles and some are exploring the possibility of marketing, and even manufacturing, electric vehicles locally.
The recent announcement by the government to allow electric vehicles (EV) from a renowned manufacturer, Tesla, is indeed encouraging. The intention will surely help to spearhead a rapid introduction of EV on the Malaysian road.
Public accessibility to EV was made available since 2014 with the introduction of the vehicles “sharing programme”, a collaborative effort between COMOS, a private company, Malaysia Automotive Institute (MAI) and Malaysian Green Technology Corporation. The EVs are available at selected LRT terminals throughout the capital city providing self-driving connectivity for commuters to locations within the vicinity of the LRT terminals.
Batteries and charging infrastructure are two essentials required for efficient usage of EVs. Commercialisation of mass produced EVs can be restricted if the batteries employed require lengthy charging time and only able to attain modest driving range.
On the other hand, public charging facilities must also be made available to support urban usage of EVs where consumers can recharge their batteries away from home while performing their daily chores.
Progress made in batteries development in recent years have been encouraging where there are claims that the new series of batteries can now propel certain EV models as far as 400km between charges. This made long distance driving of EV possible.
The batteries however are still expensive and heavy adding extra weight on the vehicles rendering only them suitable for high end expansive EVs. Battery research and development are now focus on achieving some basic requirements apart from lower cost, which are; high specific energy for long runtimes, high specific power for load currents, long life, high safety, wide operating range, no toxicity, fast charging, low self-discharge and long shelf life.
Lithium-ion battery currently dominates most developmental work for EV application. The battery characteristic advantage is its 80 to 90% charge-discharge efficiency and having good power density, while its downside is short charge cycle life and significant degradation with age.
Other battery technologies now beginning to take centre stage in the EVs propulsion are lithium cobalt oxide and lithium nickel cobalt aluminium oxide with each having its own advantages.
Malaysia cannot remain passive in pursuing battery development and manufacturing initiatives. The nation must be prepared for the EV market entrance whenever timeframe it may be which seem to be sooner than expected.
On this accord, MAI in partnership with the Australian Automotive Research (Autocrc), has made progress in developing materials needed for future manufacture of EV batteries locally. The spin off from these development will see lithium based batteries will be manufactured in Malaysia in co-existence with the powder, cells and battery packs production.
In promoting EVs, Malaysia will lead the way in having the necessary supply chain developed and will include the production of electric vehicles for passenger and commercial usage.