Last week, news from Beijing mentioned Malaysia as the regional electric vehicle manufacturing hub for Chinese carmaker Beijing Auto International Corporation (BAIC). Now, further details have emerged, with the plant in Gurun, Kedah, expected to be operational in July 2016 with an initial investment of up to RM300 million, Bernama reports.

Amber Dual Sdn Bhd is the JV’s local partner, and its managing director Shabudin Md Saman said the project has got off the ground in Gurun. The bulk of R&D work is mainly to change the left-hand drive system to right-hand drive at the cost of about RM50 million. Prototypes are expected to be ready in December, with production expected to start in July next year.

BAIC’s Gurun plant, which is being built at the cost of between RM200 million and RM300 million, will also serve as a marketing centre for BAIC vehicles for both the Malaysian market and the ASEAN region. BAIC is targeting production of between 2,000 and 3,000 EVs next year, with a gradual yearly increase.

“Our company has also set our mind on a higher goal as we do not want to rely solely on BAIC technology, instead we aim at adding value in the vehicle design. We aspire to lead Malaysia’s electric vehicle technology. Government help is also needed as electric vehicle technology requires high financing, especially in installing vehicle battery-charging facilities,” Shabudin said.

“We are also working on battery technology on our own. For an electric vehicle, the battery alone accounts for one-third of its cost,” he added.

Kedah chief minister Datuk Seri Mukhriz Tun Dr Mahathir, who was in Beijing to witness the signing of the deal between BAIC and Amber Dual last week, is hoping for spin-offs. “With the plant in Gurun, it will contribute to the growth of Kedah’s economy. As electric vehicles are the latest technology, we expect that there will be suppliers who will enter the electric vehicle business,” he said.