• Madani Sahari

Ensuring smooth transition to EEVs

NEW energy-efficient vehicles (EEV), with reference to the “plug-in hybrid electric vehicle”, the full “electric vehicle” and the “fuel cell hybrid”, are new mobility concepts beginning to enter the marketplace.

As can be expected, there would be many market and technical barriers that need to be addressed for their acceptance, both on the part of manufacturers and consumers alike.

Among the market barriers include a lack of market drivers, price, and infrastructure.

The current market demand is still insufficient to drive vehicle manufacturers to commit high investment necessary to develop and produce new energy-saving technological vehicles on a large scale.

Fluctuation in oil prices coupled with lack of customers’ knowledge are hurdles among car makers to venture into mass production of the new EEV.

Customers’ acceptance of these revolutionary concept of the new EEV may take a long time to ascertain in the marketplace.

Today’s customers are so accustomed to the established performance of the conventional and advanced internal combustion engine, and perhaps the hybrid technology too. Therefore, their expectation of the new EEV attributes must be the same or better.

Before these EEV can penetrate the marketplace, exposure and education on the vehicle is vital so that new mindset and expectations among the public are ascertained.

Availability of charging infrastructure, battery charging period and aftermarket services, such as maintenance facilities and qualified technicians, are additional concerns among road users who care more of their mobility rather that the type of vehicle they are in.

Affordability is yet another attribute that may discourage the widespread use of the new EEV. While all of the above prescribed market barriers may discourage car makers from venturing into mass production of the EEV, current production mainly focuses on low volume and high-end profitable models. Until up-scaling into mass production is viable, most of the EEV may remain beyond the general public’s affordability.

In the manufacturing arena, the lightweight materials have largely been developed for the aerospace industry, of which many of the technologies are applicable to the new EEV. Due to high value-added aerospace parts and components, material suppliers may choose to avoid selling their products to automotive parts and components manufacturers, unless there are promises of large volume orders. As such, start-up manufacturing with lower volume of parts and components may be hindered.

The new EEV promoters strongly believe that the life cycle cost of the vehicle is lower in the long run compared to the conventional technology but the initial investment cost is likely to be higher.

Generally, consumers are unwilling to invest in costly new technology until it is proven viable. The predicament is further enhanced if the vehicle risk is factored into where the manufacturers and consumers are concerned on the warranty and litigation.

Despite the prescribed barriers, the new EEV will eventually be the mode of public mobility due to the gradual global climatic changes.

Global legislators are pressured to regulate the harmful emission in their respective countries and inevitably, the new EEV is the long- term solution for transportation.

Malaysia’s involvement in promoting the EEV is therefore a commendable and visionary initiative that will position the nation towards well-prepared future EEV usage.

There are a lot to be done among automotive stakeholders to overcome barriers towards ensuring successful implementation of the EEV agenda in public education, infrastructure preparation, manufacturing concerns and future aftermarket requirements.

In all aspects, clear understanding of the EEV prerequisites is imperative for successful utilisation. Dynamic collaboration and concerted efforts of stakeholders on initiatives undertaken will surely position Malaysia as the prominent EEV user and producer of the future

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