Proton’s new energy vehicle subsidiary, Proton New Energy Technology (Pro-Net) today exchanged memorandum of understanding (MOU) documents with Gentari, the clean energy subsidiary of Petronas.

The exchange of documents with Gentari is yet another effort by Proton to establish itself in the EV and NEV ecosystem. NEV or ‘new energy vehicle’ is a term used in China to reference electrified vehicles including hybrids, mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids, or fully electric vehicles. Last month, Proton signed a general distributorship agreement with smart which will see the company sell and service smart vehicles in Malaysia and Thailand.

The smart #1 electric vehicle is expected to be launched in Malaysia by Q4 of 2023. It was unveiled in April 2022 and boasts 272 PS and 343 Nm from a rear-mounted electric motor, with 440 km of range (WLTP cycle) from a 66 kWh battery.

As part of the MOU, Pro-Net and Gentari will be conducting research in areas related to the local EV ecosystem. This includes suitability of charging locations, EV components supply chain, deployment of renewable energy, collaborative EV-related marketing and education.

Initial plans are to construct 20 DC chargers in 2023 where Pro-Net will provide charging locations and power facilities while Gentari would be responsible for charging infrastructure and operation solutions. The MOU exchange today and the earlier mentioned plans to construct the DC fast-chargers are essentially preparations for the arrival of the smart #1 in Malaysia.

“Today’s exchange of documents with Gentari addresses one piece of Proton’s move into the NEV market and opens opportunities to collaborate with the clean energy subsidiary of Petronas to contribute to the build-up of Malaysia’s charging infrastructure. However, Proton must pay equal attention to other areas of the business if we want to have a comprehensive business solution,” said Roslan Abdullah, deputy CEO of Proton.

According to Proton, research into EV ownership has shown a trend where users prioritise connectivity, autonomous driving, and over-the-air updates, unlike what traditional car buyers expect from their vehicles. The research also showed that EV customers expect a new sale and after-sale experience. As such, Pro-Net is considering different options ranging from traditional showrooms to urban experience centres, with EV offerings that suit the needs of Malaysian EV users. The option to sell and lease vehicles online is also being considered.

“Addressing the needs of EV and NEV customers in Malaysia will require the participation of many parties and collaboration between automotive industry players. This is especially true with regards to a charging infrastructure that addresses the needs of users throughout the country and Pro-Net will offer customers a comprehensive charging solution,” said Roslan.

“We also foresee NEV customers having a different set of motivating factors compared to traditional car buyers and as such, we want to create a new experience that caters to their needs. Therefore, Pro-Net will actively recruit new dealers and welcome proposals for an innovative brand and transactional experience,” he added.

Aside from the exchange of MOU documents, Proton also announced that it would be sending 16 of its engineers to China for six months to be trained in R&D, vehicle performance, homologation, and testing with the aim of eventually developing and selling a homegrown NEV. Exciting times ahead!