While many are sniggering (to put it lightly) at the latest gambit by the government – have you not heard of Malaysia’s upcoming flying car? – it’s easy to forget that another new car project is (supposed to be) brewing in the background. We are of course talking about the new national car project (NNCP), which by the way, has missed the timelines announced in October 2018.

Then, entrepreneur development minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof said that the NNCP will have its name announced by the end of 2018, with a prototype scheduled for early 2019, ahead of a 2020 roll out.

The vehicle is to feature semi-autonomous driving capability, and will be safe and cheap, we were told. Early this year, there was word that the identity of the company leading the NNCP would be announced on January 28, but that day passed by without any NNCP news.

The dates mentioned above have come and gone, and there’s no company, name or prototype to be seen. There is however a small update. According to Mohd Redzuan, who by the way also announced the flying car idea, the government is currently considering technology partnerships to develop the third national car. This is important to ensure the technologies chosen are appropriate and sustainable, Bernama reported.

“We have received many suggestions from various quarters, and we will shortlist each of them. This is not easy (to be decided on) because it needs to be discussed at the National Development Council level, and I expect us to reach a decision within this year,” he told reporters in Putrajaya yesterday.

According to the report, Mohd Redzuan said the government was currently focusing on making Malaysia an automobile manufacturing country, and that the government would focus on ‘Extended Range Vehicles’ for the NNCP as it was deemed more affordable.

No elaboration, but they could have probably meant range extender EVs, as opposed to full battery electric vehicles. Back in August 2018, before the official NNCP announcement, prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that Malaysia will be seeking assistance from Japanese automakers for the third national car project, and he name-dropped Nissan and Toyota then.

If ‘Extended Range Vehicles’ does indeed refer to range extender EVs, Nissan currently has such technology. The Nissan Note e-Power – on sale in Japan since late 2016 and displayed at KLIMS 2018; ETCM has indicated interest in the tech – is technically an EV, but there’s no socket for plug-in charging like the Nissan Leaf.

Instead, there’s a 79 PS/103 Nm 1.2 litre three-cylinder engine acting solely as a generator for the 109 PS/254 Nm electric motor from the previous Leaf. The petrol engine is not connected to the driven wheels, so this isn’t like the hybrids that we know. Nissan says that the e-Power system provides the benefits of an electric motor – such as maximum torque from standstill – without the accompanying range anxiety.

Nissan is also one of the more advanced carmakers when it comes to autonomous tech (read more on its ProPilot tech here) and “semi-autonomous” was mentioned in the NNCP announcement. So, could we be looking at a Nissan-backed third national car with e-Power and ProPilot tech?

GALLERY: Nissan Note e-Power at KLIMS 2018