Range anxiety is a legitimate fear, perhaps the most substantial barrier inhibiting the acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs) in Malaysia. An influx of brands subsist in growing the market — there are now plenty of options across varying price segments. But what cannot be ignored is the hesitation that continues to hold back consumers at the dealership. “What if the car runs out of battery midway?”
The local EV charging infrastructure may not be as plentiful as the petrol stations that pop up every few kilometres, but public and private bodies are aiming to ramp up construction to accommodate the exponential growth and interest in EVs.
Under Malaysia’s Low Carbon Mobility Blueprint 2021-2030, the government’s goal is to establish 10,000 EV charging bays across the country by 2025. But with fewer than 1,500 chargers (most of which are the AC variety, as opposed to the fast-charging DC points) available at the time of writing, according to the Malaysia Electric Vehicle Charging Network, consumer doubt is not unreasonable.
If you live in the Klang Valley, however, they are actually not that hard to find. Most apartments, offices and malls are equipped with a decent number of chargers, so are selected petrol stations and dealerships. Tap into the ChargEV, JomCharge or ParkEasy network and one might be surprised to find a charging bay nearby. There is always the option to install a private one at home, too.
As such, range anxiety would be less of a concern for city and weekend drivers, but those travelling long distances and interstate would invariably require some pre-trip planning.
In a recent jaunt to Penang with Mercedes-Benz Malaysia, we set off from Petaling Jaya with a fully charged EQA 250, the brand’s entry-level SUV. According to the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), the car offers a total range of 495km and has an electric consumption of 17.6 kWh/100km. When plugged into a DC station (400V), it takes about half an hour to fully charge.
The EQA is basically the electrified version of the GLA, with a few design elements to distinguish the two, such as the black panel radiator grille and light strip at the front and rear. The cabin is compact and neat, with the usual trimmings tinged with a bit of sportiness from the AMG Line kit. While the EQA is heavier and slower overall, its electric power is delivered almost instantaneously and can propel the two-tonne car effortlessly. The paddle shifters here control the regenerative braking level, which we tested crawling out of lunchtime traffic.
The compact crossover is quiet and relaxing to drive. It moves swiftly when overtaking on the highway but top speed is 160kph — definitely no fun, but safe for families. On that note, it must be mentioned that to accommodate the battery, some room at the back had to be sacrificed. As a result, the rear seats are a tad cramped and boot space may be insufficient, especially if a stroller is part of the travel pack.
With about 30% of power left, we made a stop at the Sunway Starbucks Tambun DT outlet in Ipoh. The car was plugged into a ChargEV station before switching to a nearby 100kW Gentari x JomCharge DC charger after a BYD cleared out. Following an unhurried coffee and restroom break of around 20 minutes, the EQA was back to an assuring 80% for the rest of the journey up north. It was a pleasant and fuss-free experience, though perhaps the same cannot be said if there was a longer queue and we were strapped for time.
The next day, the EQB 350 4MATIC was our assigned ride home. The cavernous seven-seater modelled after the GLB is the ultimate family car, offering a generous amount of space in all three rows. Even the two seats in the far back can accommodate adults comfortably; that is, if you are under 165cm tall.
There is plenty of head, leg and shoulder room for carpool karaoke and boot capacity is a whopping 1,710 litres, thanks to its long wheelbase. There is just one caveat: The seats are sorely uncomfortable and instigated a sore lower back that lasted two days after the long drive. There are others who had no qualms about them, though, so to each his own.
The EQB packs a harder punch in terms of power. While its top speed is also 160kph, it has a rated output of 292hp and torque of 520Nm, and can accelerate from zero to 100 in 6.2 seconds. It drives briskly and quickly. Electrical consumption is 19.7 to 18.1 kWh/100km with a lesser electric range offering only up to 423km. With that many people in the car, pit stops will happen more frequently anyway.
Inside, the rose-gold touches on the dash, coupled with a clean ambience, enhance the overall enjoyability. The exterior is not the most exciting, but if you are looking for an efficient EV to ferry the kids and grandparents around, then it is worth considering.
At the Tapah south-bound R&R, the Shell 180kW DC charger was easy to use if you already have the ParkEasy app downloaded. The usual waiting game ensued, this time on a wooden bench in front of the Select convenience store — not as comfortable as the sofa seats at the air-conditioned Starbucks, but at least we were closer to home.
If one truly believes EVs are the future, then perhaps it is worth hearing that somewhere along the way, range anxiety will eventually be a thing of the past. Give it a few years for the industry to iron out the kinks and mature and soon, quiet, carbon-free drives will be the norm.
The EQA 250 and EQB 350 4MATIC retail for RM296,888 and RM333,888 respectively on-the-road without insurance, with a 10% sales tax.
This article first appeared on Nov 20, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.