Ride-sharing and mobility provider Socar aims to grow the presence of electric vehicles in Malaysia with the objective of setting up 50 electric vehicle (EV) zones in the country by the end of next year, the company has revealed in a conference call today.

These Socar EV zones will be located “nearby or right next to EV charging stations,” said Socar Mobility Malaysia CEO Leon Foong.

The type of charging stations will depend on the location, said Foong; this will be determined by the frequency of usage and the mileage typically accrued by electric vehicle users in that zone, he explained. For example, Socar vehicle bookings that begin from zones in Cyberjaya have been found to average a much higher mileage compared to bookings from the city centre, such as the KLCC or Bukit Bintang areas.

“Keeping that in mind, when we [designate] an electric vehicle charging zone in Cyberjaya, for example, it will be with a DC charger, compared to an area like Bukit Bintang where we will probably install a 22 kW AC charger, the Socar Mobility Malaysia CEO said.

The goal for Socar in this pilot programme next year is very simple, Foong said. “We want to prove to users that EVs are fun to drive; that range anxiety – with the right infrastructure – is not a worry at all; and that for people investing in charging infrastructure, we want to prove that breaking even from a utilisation standpoint is actually possible,” also citing that China has a utilisation rate over a 24-hour period of 8-10% in order for the investors to break even on their outlay.

Those areas will be among the key metrics Socar will be observing, said its CEO. “Is the total cost of EV ownership lower than that of an internal combustion-engined vehicle? We strongly believe the answer is ‘yes’, and we hope to find out for sure next year,” he said.

“For the people investing in vehicle charging infrastructure – can they actually generate returns on investment from the capital expenditure they have laid out? These are the two key goals in our partnership with Tenaga Nasional, and 2022 will be a big year in finding the answers to these questions,” Foong noted.

In addition to its commitments outlined as above for the immediate future as well as for beyond 2022, Socar will be working to further grow the number of electric vehicle zones in the country in 2023 and 2024, its CEO continued.

It aims to achieve this through the lessons learnt from how to better optimise the utilisation of its fleet, the user experience in driving its vehicles over longer distances, as well as from data gathered from the utilisation of its charging stations.