So, you’ve gotten an electric vehicle (EV) and now you want to take it for a road trip. There have been a lot of questions about EVs in Malaysia. Like, are EVs practical for a long-distance drive? Is it hard to find a charger? Will I get stranded without any juice left? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Over at SoyaCincau.com, we’ve driven a lot of EVs and personally, I have an Kia EV6 as a daily driver with over 15,000km on the odometer so far. We have done several long-distance road trips and most recently, we completed a single charge challenge with the Hyundai Ioniq 6 by driving from Taiping to Johor Bahru.
Understand your EV’s range and charging speed
Firstly, not all EVs are built the same. There are different motors, batteries and efficiency figures which affect the overall driving performance. You need to understand your EV’s real-world range on a full charge.
Most EVs these days can do 400km and above, but there are some with smaller batteries which do 300km or less. If your destination is say 350km away, an EV that can deliver 400km of real-world range should be able to do the job on a single charge. If the destination is further away, you’ll need to plan a charging top-up along the way. Of course, you need to buffer the range a little bit more as it all depends on your driving style.
Another thing to take note of is your EV’s supported charging speed. For long-distance drives, you would need to use a DC fast charger but the charging rate is different for each car. Some can do over 200kW, while others may do 100kW or less.
For AC charging, this is the most cost-effective way to charge when your car is not in use. For example when you’re at a hotel, shopping mall or at a tourist attraction.
Most EVs can do 11kW on AC where a full charge can be achieved in about 5-7 hours. But there are other EVs especially from China like BYD Atto 3/Dolphin and GWM Ora Good Cat that charge slower at 7kW. A full charge may take 10 hours or longer, depending on the battery size.
Plan your EV charging route
Unlike petrol stations, the reality is that EV chargers are still not widely available in Malaysia. However, the situation is improving gradually as more charge point operators are deploying more EV chargers nationwide. Finding a place to charge your EV isn’t very obvious since most charging locations don’t display a huge sign like petrol stations.
It is still possible to have a seamless long-distance trip on your EV, just that you just need a little bit of planning.
In a typical road trip, you definitely need some toilet breaks along the way and you can plan those breaks with a bit of EV charging. A quick 10-20 minutes of DC fast charging is usually sufficient for a decent top-up.
So if you’re travelling somewhere, find out what chargers are available at the destination as well as for the midpoint of the journey. At the moment, there are quite a number of EV chargers between Johor to Penang and there are some chargers between the East Coast and the Klang Valley.
When you reach the destination, we recommend finding AC chargers as they are much cheaper to charge when your car is not in use for several hours. This can be done while you’re having lunch, dinner, shopping, or when the car is parked for an extended period of time.
Recommended apps to plan your EV journey in Malaysia
So how do you find EV chargers and where should you charge? Here are a couple of apps that you can download to make your road trip better.
The first app is Plugshare (Apple App Store, Google Play Store) which is basically like the Foursquare of EV chargers. Not only you can view all chargers on the map, but you can also check out details of the charger, which network is it on and also read the reviews and comments for the charger. Plugshare is also a great place to find out how to get to the charger, especially if it is inside a building’s basement car park. DC chargers are marked in orange while slower AC chargers are marked in green.
Also, we recommend performing a check-in so that people know that you’re using a charger and the rate of charge you’re getting. This is great for the EV community so that everyone knows the status of the charger.
A Better Route Planner
Another recommended app to plan your journey is ABRP or also known as A Better Route Planner (Apple App Store, Google Play Store). You can select your EV model, choose the starting and end point of your trip, and it will recommend charging stops along the way. It even recommends the duration and percentage of each charge as well as the expected state of charge for each stop.
You can even add filters like having fewer or more stops along the way, and also how much charge remaining you would like to have when you reach the destination. There are a lot of options to plan the route including changing the recommended charging location to alternative chargers and adjusting the time to charge for each stop.
Good driving habits can improve the efficiency of your EV
Your driving habits have a huge impact on your EV’s mileage. If you’re light footed you can probably squeeze more range from a single charge and get somewhere closer to the advertised range. If you’re heavy-footed with lots of aggressive overtaking, you would get a much lower range.
You might hear people saying that EVs won’t survive a traffic jam during Balik Kampung trips. Actually, that’s a myth and EVs do better than petrol engines when it comes to crawling traffic. When you’re stuck in the jam, the motors are not using any energy and the batteries are merely used to run the aircon and electronics which is about 1kW. In stop-and-go traffic, EVs are highly efficient as they use regenerative braking to recoup energy back to the battery. In fact, having a lower average speed of 50-80km/h on an EV offers greater energy efficiency than driving at over 100km/h.
To really get the most out of your EV’s battery, just keep to the speed limit and you’ll do just fine. Personally, I’ll recommend setting adaptive cruise control at the permitted maximum speed limit (e.g. 110km/h), setting drive mode to ECO and sticking to the left lane unless overtaking.
Best way to charge your EV for long-distance trips
Here’s where a lot of first-time EV owners get it wrong. You probably heard some users complain about EVs taking too long to charge or spending over RM100 just for one charging stop, which can be avoided. With an EV, you don’t really need to charge it to full all the time. I know it is an old habit with petrol cars where we tend to do a full tank.
With EVs, there’s something called the charging curve and essentially, the charging rate slows down significantly when the battery reaches 80%.
Similar to smartphones, EVs often boast about their fast charging speeds from 10 to 80%. The reason for that is that the time to charge from 80-100% may take longer than charging from 10-80%.
So, don’t waste time and money trying to charge your EV to 100%. Instead of wasting over 40 minutes at a charger, you should probably do a quick 20-minute charge while you go for a toilet break, and then move on and charge at the next R&R when the battery percentage is low.
When you’re at a DC charging stop, just charge what you need or up to 80%. If you plan your journey properly and there’s a charger at the destination, just make sure you have enough range to get there with about 50km of extra buffer.
Of course, there are some exceptions. If you’re driving a short-range EV with small batteries like the Mazda MX-30, Mini Cooper Electric or the older Nissan Leaf, then you’ll probably need the 100% charge to reach the next stop if the range is not enough.
Recommended charging networks for DC fast charging
From our experience with interstate road trips, we would recommend Gentari, JomCharge and ChargEV. Most of their new DC chargers are using kWh-based pricing which is a much fairer way to pay for EV charging, especially for EVs with low maximum charging speed. These are some that are priced per minute but their rates are generally pretty reasonable.
Our least favourite DC fast charging network is Shell Recharge along the North-South Expressway. These chargers cost RM4 per minute which is expensive and on top of that, you need to have at least RM200 in your ParkEasy account in order to start charging. We recommend that you stay away from these chargers unless you really need to use them as a last resort.
Of course, there are other charging networks out there like ChargeSini and TNB Electron which are pretty decent as well. So search around using the PlugShare app because there could be a better EV charger around the corner.
EV challenges that you should know
During the festive season, there’s always a concern about long queues to charge, which does happen at popular stops with just a single charger. If you want a higher chance of an available charger, do find alternative EV charging hubs with more nozzles or stations. You can search around using the Plugshare app.
If a charger is offered for free, it is likely there will be a long queue during peak seasons. So it might be more worthwhile to pay a little bit more for a charger that’s more likely to be available.
Most, if not all EVs, don’t have a spare tyre and most brands do this in the name of weight saving. In most cases, newer cars including hybrids and EVs come with a tyre repair kit but from my experience, that can destroy any chances of repairing the tyre. You see, most repair kits that use a liquid sealant are just a temporary one-time solution. Whether or not it works, you’ll have to replace it with a new one which can be a costly affair.
My suggestion is either get the car towed to a workshop or get one of those DIY tyre repair strips. If you’re travelling on tolled highways, you can contact the highway assist team to help jack your car and patch the tyre with the DIY kit.
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