Petronas Dagangan staff demonstrates a ChargEV charging point at a Petronas station.

TURNING our cities into zero emission zones and improving public transport are among the main aspirations of Malaysian youths, said Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin earlier this week.

He was reported by an English daily as saying: “It is my personal hope that by 2050, no one will be using either a petrol or diesel vehicle in the city... they can instead use public transport or electric vehicles (EVs).”

Khairy’s timeline for the aspiration is 2050, significantly longer than the 2030 timeframe for some European cities to achieve the same.

This will give Malaysia another 33 years to achieve the goal.

But how far is the country already moving down this path?

Will it achieve these goals earlier?

Interestingly, Malaysia’s incentives for such vehicles have already gone a long way in accelerating the country along this trajectory.

Speak to any of the European car executives and they will tell you that Malaysians are quick to adopt bridging technologies like plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

Unfortunately, as of now, these technologies are available only from the premium brands.

Mass-market car manufacturers like Proton and Perodua have yet to announce any plans to develop plug-in hybrids or electrics.

Besides being easier on the environment, a key benefit of PHEVs is the vast improvement in fuel economy.

It is not unheard of for the new-generation PHEVs to have fuel consumption in the low two litres per 100km.

This makes them very economical, especially with RON95 prices now at RM2.35 per litre and Ron97 at RM2.66 (at press time).

However, they are still pricey to purchase, although prices of batteries are coming down fast.

Every year, the PHEVs are improving in efficiency.

Purely electric range, for example, is increasing by leaps and bounds.

For a 100km journey, a good hybrid may be able to travel half of it purely on electric, with zero emissions, and the internal combustion engine entirely off.

At the present rate, it seems the aspiration for zero emissions in our cities is a distinct possibility.

However, the government needs to be consistent with its policies.

A major prerequisite of zero-emission vehicles is the supporting infrastructure.

The government policies so far are slowly leading to its development.

Petroliam Nasional Bhd has set up 66 charging stations at petrol stations nationwide.

Industry players like Mercedes-Benz Malaysia are also supporting this by setting up their own branded charging points in shopping malls.

The future of transportation is changing fast with new trends, and the government needs to keep tabs with it.

Public transportation is still at a developing stage in the country. While leaps and bounds have been made with the new Mass Rapid Transit lines, Malaysia still has a long way to go.


PRIVATE CARS REMAIN KING

According to Malaysia Automotive Association figures, as of June 30, the total number of vehicles on our roads exceeded 28 million units.

That’s 13.29 million cars and 12.93 million motorcycles as well as other vehicles.

The number of cars on our roads increases annually at an astounding 1.23 million vehicles per year.

The majority of these vehicles are still traditional combustion-engine vehicles.

In order for Malaysia to achieve its zero emission aspirations, this equation needs to change.

Malaysia’s mass market manufacturer Perodua and Proton will need to start churning out hybrid and electric vehicles, and they need to do it fast.

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