Monday 22 Jul 2024
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This article first appeared in Digital Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on July 24, 2023 - July 30, 2023

Mercedes-Benz AG is among the few automotive players that have committed to transition their entire portfolio to be fully electric by 2030. In Malaysia, the luxury car maker holds the record for the most electric vehicle (EV) offerings.

“With this strategic step from ‘electric first’ to ‘electric only’, we are accelerating the transformation to a zero-emission and software-driven future,” says Bettina Plangger, vice-president, sales and marketing, at Mercedes-Benz Cars Malaysia & SEA II.

“We are committed to realising this vision to ‘Lead in Electric’ with a holistic well-rounded approach towards a sustainable future in Malaysia.”

The automobile giant made headlines in February with the rollout of its first locally assembled EV, the EQS 500 4Matic. Assembled at Mercedes-Benz’s production plant in Pekan, Pahang, the EQS 500 4Matic large sedan sits at the top of the EQ range.

“This aligns with our global business strategy of providing our customers with a diverse range of EQ models and actively contributing to the increased adoption of EVs in Malaysia. With the active support of the government and our comprehensive EQ range, we are cautiously optimistic about the adoption of EVs in Malaysia,” says Plangger. Mercedes is guided by its Ambition 2039, the foundation for the German marque’s electrification, digitalisation and sustainability undertakings.

It currently has a portfolio of seven models in the country and the brand has had great success with the first five models — the EQE and EQS saloons and the EQA, EQB and EQC SUVs.

Mass adoption hampered by lack of infrastructure

Plangger says one of the hurdles to wider adoption of EVs is the lack of EV charging infrastructure. There are currently a little over 1,000 EV charging stations across the country.

Plangger says: “The growth of the EV charging network needs to keep pace with the growing demand for EVs. We believe it is important for the industry and consumers to have a long-term targeted EV incentive scheme. All this will be possible, as the government and industry players are already taking significant efforts to address these areas.”

As outlined in the Low Carbon Mobility Blueprint (LCMB) 2021-2030, the government aims to establish at least 10,000 charging stations in the next couple of years. These stations will consist of 1,000 units of direct current (DC) type for fast charging and 9,000 units of alternating current (AC) type for slow charging.

Mercedes believes this initiative will alleviate concerns about the sensibility of driving EVs, particularly range anxiety.

“We have shown our commitment by setting up some of the DC charging stations along main highways and within our retail network. We will continue our efforts, together with our partners, to expedite the growth of EV infrastructure in Malaysia,” says Plangger.

Despite the lack of EV charging infrastructure, Plangger believes Malaysia’s goal to fully transition to just EVs is not just a pipe dream.

To achieve the nation’s decarbonisation goals and reach net zero by 2050, however, sizeable investments are needed in the EV sector. The Malaysia Transition Outlook report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says 76% of all road vehicles in Malaysia will need to run on electricity by 2050 to achieve its net zero goals.

The report also projects that 1.3 million charging stations will need to be installed in the country by 2050 to support the estimated 38 million electric vehicles in Malaysia. In the nearer term, IRENA estimates Malaysia will need 150,000 public charging stations by 2030, which requires an investment of US$3.7 billion (RM16.9 billion).

“[But] this can happen only if automotive manufacturers engage in productive dialogues with government bodies and policymakers to advocate for supportive regulations, incentives and policies that facilitate the growth of EVs. This includes providing insights, technical expertise and recommendations to shape a favourable EV ecosystem in the country,” adds Plangger.

Mercedes plans to move the needle towards EVs through initiatives such as upskilling talents and forging partnerships with local industry players.

“The transition to EVs requires a workforce equipped with the knowledge and expertise to develop, manufacture, service and maintain these vehicles and their associated technologies,” says Plangger.

“To ensure excellence in quality and service for our EQ models, both our sales and aftersales workforce have undergone training based on a global syllabus. This training is a fundamental aspect of our EV readiness strategy and is integrated into the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Modern Apprenticeship training programme for this year.”

Through collaborations with industry partners such as Gentari Sdn Bhd and EV Connection Sdn Bhd, Mercedes has installed five DC chargers along the North-South Expressway and the East Coast Expressway.

“The first EV charging hub we have is at the Petronas Station Bandar Baru Ayer Hitam in Johor. We further installed EV charging stations at 14 retail outlets across the country, expanding the accessibility of charging facilities for EV owners.

“To encourage our employees to flip the switch, we offer EVs as company cars. We have also invested in building our EV charging infrastructure at our office premises with 80 AC charging points and 360kW DC chargers,” says Plangger.

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