We may be in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic that is wreaking havoc on the economy, but long term goals must still be in place, as our country and the rest of the world will one day return to normalcy. Malaysia remains committed to ensure adequate financing for programmes and projects related to the Sustainable Development Goals, and this will be reflected in the upcoming Budget 2022.

According to finance minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, it is important to have a “whole nation approach” when developing short to long term key policies for sustainable development.

“This includes the impact of climate change on financial stability and economy, as well as addressing social-related issues like poverty. The government is looking further at driving sustainability efforts especially in introducing policies as well as both tax and non-tax incentives for the green economy to push for more renewable energy investment,” he said at the recent Joint Committee on Climate Change (JC3) Flagship Conference, reported by Bernama.

Tengku Zafrul said the government is also looking into the sustainable infrastructure and cities that are fit for purpose in the post Covid environment, including optimising demands management for energy, encouraging low-carbon mobility and promoting the construction of green buildings.

Socar Mobility Asia warmly welcomes the government’s commitment to sustainability-related financing. “As a company committed to expanding access to mobility options and also a believer that transportation can be fully carbon neutral in the future, Socar is firmly committed to and highly supportive of policies and incentives that encourage low-carbon mobility and investments into the sustainable infrastructure that supports green transportation systems in a vibrant green economy,” said group CEO Leon Foong.

The car-sharing app company says that it has long believed that private-public partnerships will be key in accelerating the switch from fossil-fuel powered vehicles to electric vehicles, including driving investment in the battery and charging industries.

“We urge the MoF, through the Sustainable Financing Roadmap, to incentivise the automotive sector and consumers in Malaysia to invest in the massive growth potential of EVs – from the production of EVs, its chargers and batteries, to the creation of a vibrant ecosystem of support services for EV users and even the recycling and repurposing of retired EV batteries for secondary use.

“With TNB’s plans for a renewable energy composition target of 31% by 2025 and 40% by 2035, we believe that mobility players and government stakeholders will also need to play their parts in ensuring that our vehicles can tap into this greener ‘grid of the future’,” Foong urged.

Socar says that it is also crucial for private enterprises and relevant ministries and agencies to come together to strategise efforts when it comes to policy standardisation, and that it is looking forward to work with the likes of MITI and its Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) agency, and the Ministry of Environment and Water and its agency, the Malaysian Green Technology and Climate Change Centre, besides MoF.

When the word “incentive” pops up, tax breaks automatically come to mind. “While the exemption of import duties for fully electric vehicles is most helpful, the affordability gap between ICE vehicles and EVs is expected to persist beyond that and there are also challenges when it comes to the availability of fast chargers,” Foong said.

Socar is suggesting a public-private “EV digital one-stop shop” where all Malaysians can easily understand the total cost of ownership savings from EVs, find their closest fast charging points, pay for charging and claim the tax benefits that come with buying an EV.

The car-sharing company is also pitching itself as a potential contributor to Malaysia’s EV push, touting its flexible distributed mobility option to make EVs more affordable and seamless. “Our technology is able to ensure seamless sharing while giving Socar users full visibility on the charge levels of each car that they are booking. Our people-to-people car sharing platform Trevo further enables EV owners to share the financial burden of buying an EV by listing their cars and sharing their charging stations with the public,” Foong says.

Socar is also touting the data it has on car usage and driver behaviour, which it says is pivotal for the successful expansion of charging infrastructure.

“Incentives have been announced to encourage the private sector to build infrastructure for the national fast charging network under the Green Income Tax Exemption (GITE), but having the correct data to identify the right locations for charging points to cater to both city-based and long-distance driving, and to have efficient load balancing across strategic locations, is a must,” Foong stressed.

The company gives the examples of drivers being more likely to spend 30 minutes in a supermarket than 30 minutes in a petrol station, and this should determine the type of chargers to be installed. Socar says that most of its users do not drive more than 60 km per booking, and trends like these can guide infrastructure planning.

Lastly, success stories from elsewhere could also give us a lesson or two. Socar points to the city of Liuzhou in China, where a localised focus on the requirements of residents proved that smaller and more affordable two-seat EVs like the Baojun E100 can be a huge catalyst for the electrification of fleets.

Malaysia is finally close to a new EV policy, and there will be a difference compared to the current “customised incentives” for manufacturers under the NAP 2020. It will contain fixed and defined incentives, but there will also be further customised incentives for manufacturers based on their level of commitment, according to MARii CEO Datuk Madani Sahari, who adds that the tax incentives will be at a “handsome level”.

As for consumers, the government is set to roll out a range of benefits for early EV adopters, including carrots such as tax-free cars, lower road tax, green parking, toll rebates and charging incentives, among other things. Buying might not be the only viable option though, as Socar is proving today with its car-sharing scheme. Interesting times ahead. Read more on the upcoming Malaysian EV policy here.