The cheapest of the trio is the Nissan Leaf, it sells for RM 181,263, has a range of 311 km (NEDC method), powered by a 40 kWh battery that makes 150 PS – slightly more powerful than of a 1.8-litre naturally aspirated Honda Civic – but a lot more torque, at 320 Nm, identical to a Volkswagen Arteon R-Line 2.0 TSI.
Next is the MINI Cooper SE 3-Door. For a supposedly very hip and funky brand, MINI is tripping over its shoelaces when it comes to naming their cars so let’s just call it MINI Electric.
It’s priced at RM 217,470, has a range of 232 km (WLTP, which is a newer, tougher standard than the NEDC method used by Nissan), and makes 184 PS – same as a BMW 3 Series, but with 30 Nm less torque, at just 270 Nm.
MINI’s sister-company BMW had launched the BMW i3s in April 2019, priced from RM 272,800 (sales tax cut not applicable then), but the model was sold out within weeks.
Sitting at the top of the hierarchy is the Porsche Taycan, starting from RM 584,561 for the 408 PS rear-wheel drive Taycan, RM 699,986 for the 530 PS all-wheel drive Taycan 4S, and RM 963,297 for the 680 PS Taycan Turbo (which by the way, doesn’t have a turbo), RM 1,151,779 for the 761 PS Taycan Turbo S.
However if you were to go further back, there were at 5 more EV models that had been launched in Malaysia, including the aforementioned BMW i3s.
TC Euro Cars launched the Renault Twizy in 2015, priced from RM 71,888. The Renault Zoe followed later in 2016, priced from RM 145,888.
The Renault Fluence Z.E. was at one time making its round at road shows but the EV sedan was not sold to the public. However, 2 units have been registered for TC Euro Cars’ internal use.
If you go even further back, you will end up in March 2013, when the Mitsubishi i-MiEV became the first electric vehicle to be launched in Malaysia, at a price of RM 136,118. It’s also the first electric vehicle to be registered in Malaysia – WVY 169, in October 2011 (It took two more years of preparation to launch the model, including pilot trials with Four Seasons Resort in Langkawi).
At least 5 units of the i-MiEV sold in Malaysia went to the Penang Second Bridge’s operator Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd (JKSB), to be used as patrol vehicles. These EVs are still being used until today, which is a testament to their reliability.
These i-MiEVs are charged using renewable energy generated from the operator’s photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines installed on the bridge.
When it was first launched in 2013, the i-MiEV was taxed as a 48 kW car (64 PS, the limit set by Japan for kei cars), paying a RM 10 road tax then. Road tax calculation for EV has since changed.
As the pioneer, Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia had the unenviable task of clearing the uncharted path of selling an EV here.
JPJ’s system then could not register an EV because EVs don’t have an engine code and engine capacity – two fields that cannot be left blank in their system.
Sidetrack: While the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is indeed the first EV to be registered for public use, there were at least 2 more EV prototypes registered in Malaysia prior to the i-MiEV, both given to the then Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
One is a Citroen Saxo Electric (registration number WGH 4073) and another is an EV-conversion Subaru Domingo with TNB decals on it (registration number WEU 2640).
Both cars parked in Galeri Sri Perdana and don't appear to be in running condition. Like many things historical in this country, the former official residence of Dr. Mahathir when he was serving as PM, prior to moving to the administrative capital of Putrajaya, Galeri Sri Perdana is poorly maintained and plaque stands that were supposed to explain about the cars are missing.
Anyway, back to the i-MiEV. Mitsubishi Motors also worked on educating emergency first responders – fire and rescue services for example – on how to deal with electric vehicles.
A lot of work was spent in educating decision makers in the Ministry of Finance, Customs, Ministry of International Trade and Industry, to support the first step towards mass adoption of EVs.
Fittingly, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV is also the world’s first series production electric vehicle, making its world debut in July 2009, initially only to corporate customers, before going on sale in April 2010.
Depending on who you ask, some will say the GM EV1 is the first but the EV1 was never sold to the public, only leased, and was limited only to selected cities in the US.
Like many innovations from Mitsubishi Motors, the i-MiEV was a little too early to catch the upswing in EVs, especially in China, now the world’s capital for EVs.
Had the i-MiEV came just 5 years later, and with a slightly different, trendier package, like Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, the response would’ve been very different.
Mitsubishi no longer makes the i-MiEV but its role is now taken over by the MiniCab MiEV, which will soon start trial runs in Thailand, at Eternity Grand Logistics Public Co., Ltd. (Eternity), a logistics company of the Hitachi Transport System Group.
Recently, we approached several manufacturers who had a history with EVs in Malaysia, to share their cumulative sales to date.
Peculiarities with Malaysia’s Competition Act means that manufactures can’t provide detailed breakdown of their respective model’s sales (MyCC believes that making vehicle sales data public promotes cartel-like behaviours).
Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP) for example, declined our request for the Porsche Taycan’s sales data, explaining that compliance with their company policy means that they can’t share such numbers.
Thankfully, all other brands were able to share theirs. Those that were unable to give a specific number, shared an approximate number.
Excluding the Porsche Taycan and EVs sold by recond dealers, there are about of 270 officially imported EVs registered for use on Malaysian roads. If we were to include the Taycan, which our best effort estimates puts it at around 80 cars sold since its launch in September 2020, bumps the total up to over 350 cars, excluding parallel imported models.
Sometime between 2016 and 2017, Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (GreenTech Malaysia) parallel imported about 100 units of Tesla Model S for leasing to keen early adopters of EV.
Early reports in 2015 say that GreenTech had planned to import 110 units but we couldn’t verify how many units were eventually brought in.
There were also a small number of Teslas parallel imported from the UK, Japan, and Hong Kong.
We don't know exactly how many units were imported but checks with friends closer to the EV community here estimates that including the Teslas leased out by GreenTech Malaysia, there should be around 125 units of Tesla cars here – Model S, Model 3 and Model X.
This also makes Tesla the most popular EV brand in Malaysia, unsurprising considering its status as a poster-car for EV fanatics (OK…fans).
Malaysia's best-selling EV for 2021
As for officially-imported EV models, the Porsche Taycan is likely to be Malaysia’s best-selling EV for 2021. We say likely, because the numbers are estimated figures, and SDAP declined to reveal its numbers.
Malaysia's most popular EV (units in operation)
As for units in operation, the Nissan Leaf still tops the chart. That’s a not surprise considering that the Leaf is already in its second generation in Malaysia.
Battery Electric Vehicles - units in use (Malaysia, June 2021)
Renault Fluence Z.E.
Hyundai Kona Electric
Tesla (all models)
One of the biggest hurdles stopping wider adoption for the Nissan Leaf is its Japanese format J1772 (Type 1) AC charger and CHAdeMO DC fast charger socket type, which is not so commonly adopted here.
Most charging facilities in Malaysia are of the European format Type 2 AC / CCS2 DC socket type.
Of course, you can always buy an adapter for the Leaf. The problem is, unlike your household socket adapter, EV charger cables are not that cheap (but not that expensive either, about a thousand Ringgit plus), it’s just an additional hassle.
For other higher powered models, it is the high road tax for EVs that’s putting would be first-time EV buyers off.
See, the Malaysian government penalizes EVs with power output above 125 kW (170 PS). In principle, that’s fine assuming that the same standard is applied on combustion engine cars, but it’s not.
A 2.0-litre turbocharged BMW 320i makes the same power as a MINI Electric, but pays just RM 379 in road tax instead of the MINI Electric's RM 724, because our archaic road tax only recognizes engine capacity, not power output (for combustion engine cars).
What's the logic behind penalizing the MINI Electric buyer?
At the top of the hierarchy, a 761 PS Porsche Taycan Turbo S pays RM 12,094 in road tax but we’re putting it here only as a reference. If a once-a-year RM 12k fee bothers you, then you are just too poor for a top of the range million Ringgit Porsche.
For other more regular-person EVs, the disparity in road tax versus combustion engine cars is annoying. It’s less about affordability (it’s not that expensive but neither is a MINI Electric or a Nissan Leaf a Perodua), but the lack of logic behind the road tax calculation.
Meanwhile, do you know that Rolls-Royce Cullinan’s road tax costs just RM 7,640, loose change when compared to a Rolls-Royce Phantom’s RM 19,005. Both cars are powered by the same 6.75-litre twin turbo V12, but our tax structure rewards you for buying big SUVs, only big ones though, sub-2.0-litre SUVs are penalized over sedans.