3 things living with an EV in Malaysia has taught us

With the current state of charging infrastructure in Malaysia, some say living with an electric vehicle (EV) is an unnecessarily troublesome endeavour. Is this true? Well, having one EV in the family for about half a year now, I guess I do have some lessons from first-hand experiences that I would like to share with you. Hear me out.

231 km of driving range to go? Take it with a grain of salt.

1. Give your battery range a “Factor of Safety”

EVs come with a rated electric driving range. The Hyundai Kona Electric e-Max, which the family owns, has a WLTP range of 484 km – plenty. On paper, you could reach Perai from Subang Jaya with one charge easily with about 140 km to spare, or so we thought.

We’ve done this trip before, and it was not a smooth sail. We started with a fully charged battery and didn’t make any stops along the way. By the time we reached Perai, the battery was at 10% State of Charge (SOC) and only 20 km of range was left. Since we decided to drive like the average Malaysian, our ‘real’ range was closer to 350 km, instead of the rated 484 km.

It was an exciting day

The situation is fine if you plan to rest at a hotel with an AC destination charger (which we did). However, with only 20 km of range left, even a short “jalan jalan cari makan” drive can induce anxiety. With AC charging taking a while, we had to stay put. There were some DC fast chargers (DCFC) in car dealership compounds around Perai back then, but they were only accessible during office hours (take note).

Looking back at the trip, we should have recharged along the way at any DCFC we can find, even when the SOC was not very low. We could have also driven more conservatively, but to make the trip more relatable to the average Malaysian, we did not.

The moral of the story is, for long drives, allow a “Factor of Safety” for your range, and make sure to recharge at DCFCs along the way. This is doable for now, but when more EVs are on the road, we’ll also need to boost the number of DCFCs in Malaysia. Else, we’d end up with long queues at the charging stations – a curious phenomenon that’s already happening in countries like China.

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Not all DC Fast Chargers are accessible 24/7

2. Recharging is cheaper than refuelling, unless…

The good thing about owning an EV is the cost per distance is cheaper than a petrol-powered car (excluding the price of the car). Using a wall box installed at our single-phase house, the running cost for our Hyundai Kona amounts to an average of RM0.08/km in our 6 months of usage. For comparison, a Honda City costs about RM0.12/km to run, with a fuel consumption of approximately 6.3 l/100km.

However, at certain charging stations, charging can actually cost more than refuelling. Some DCFCs of premium brands tend to charge higher rates if your car is not of the said brand. This is understandable as the brands would want to offer its own customers exclusive benefits. Most public chargers cost less than refuelling, but a select few cases, such as brand-exclusive chargers, do not.

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A 7kW bay at Sunway Pyramid with the Kona next to the EQA. The rate is reasonable

3. Your EV is at best, a second car for the family, for now

Having an EV in the family, we’d really like to think that it could be the one car to do it all. But it can’t… at least not yet. We have even installed a wall box in our hometown in Temerloh just so we could balik kampung with our EV, and we’ve successfully done so with no hiccups. But the reality is that a primary car for the family should not have required this much discipline just to keep it running.

With an EV, you can’t have unexpected detours. And despite the instantaneous torque at your disposal, you can’t be too unruly with it for fear of draining the battery on a long trip. Another downside is that in emergency situations, you might have to charge before making a move. Given the state of EV infrastructure in Malaysia right now, an EV is, at best, a second car for the family.

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Owning an EV in the family has been an interesting experience for us. Living in an urban area, we are lucky to be able to live with the car’s setbacks without too much difficulty. You could give it a try but we’d only recommend it as a second car for the time being. If you think you could handle it as your main vehicle, then more power to you.

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