Electric cars in Malaysia not so green after all, study shows as govt plans third national car

Danial Dzulkifly
Although touted as a practical solution to reduce (GHG) emission, driving EVs in Malaysia seems to harm the environment as much, if not more, than conventional fossil-fuel powered cars. — Stringer/Reuters pic

PETALING JAYA, Aug 24 ― Planning to trade in your petrol or diesel-powered car for an electric vehicle (EV)? You may want to consider these findings by the Penang Institute before making the down payment.

Although touted as a practical solution to reduce (GHG) emission, driving EVs in Malaysia seems to harm the environment as much, if not more, than conventional fossil-fuel powered cars.

According to Penang Institute research analyst Darshan Joshi, the EV has great potential to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but in Malaysia, such vehicles are fuelled by the national power grid, which is still heavily reliant on coal and fossil fuels.

“Electric vehicles (EVs) are only as clean as the energy sources that power them, with emissions shifted from the tailpipe to smokestack. Over 90 per cent of Malaysia’s electricity is generated through the burning of fossil fuels

“Consequently, a focus on EVs without first addressing the composition of the electricity grid would be premature and instead lead to a rise in the nation’s transport sector emissions,” he said in a report on the study released today.

In his research, Darshan analysed the life-cycle emissions of EVs against internal-combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) and hybrid vehicles (HEV) across several electricity grid compositions of varying carbon intensities.

Calculating the carbon dioxide produced by a car per gram, per kilometre (g/km CO2), the researcher compared the difference of emission involving a Perodua Bezza, Tesla Model 3 S, Nissan Leaf an average EV, Tesla Model S 100D, and a Tesla Model X P100D.

He concluded that the ICEV Perodua Bezza produce 172.1 g/km C02, much lower compared to the other models such as the Tesla Model X (252.7)

“This evidence suggests that a shift to EVs in Malaysia today would be detrimental to climate change efforts. A more environmentally-friendly policy would instead incentivise fuel-efficient ICEVs, as well as HEVs, which are for the most part considerably less polluting than EVs,’’ he said.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government intends to push the renewable energy through renewable resources from the current 2 per cent to 20 per cent by 2025.

The PH government also announced a third national car project, meant to be developed by the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation, under the purview of the Ministry of Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change, and Environment.

The third national car project is said to be an EV.

Darshan, however, warns that unless the government meets its targets on renewable energy and a major reduction in the reliance of fossil fuels on Malaysia’s electrical grid, EVs will cause more pollution than conventional powered vehicles.

“At this stage, only very efficient, compact EVs are cleaner than the Bezza, but even then, the magnitude of the emissions reduction lies between 1.5 and 4.7 per cent – too small a difference to justify a large, present-day investment in EV technology.

“It is only when Malaysia’s electricity grid approaches a state where the contributions of coal and RE are roughly equal, at 35 per cent, that steady emissions reductions can be expected from vehicle fleet electrification,” he said.

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