In a second guest article written exclusively for just-auto, Dato Madani Sahari, the CEO of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii), describes the need for sustainable development as part of the country's ambitious strategic aims for its automotive sector.

In a previous article in this column, we generally discussed Malaysia's industrialisation drive through the automotive sector.

From the establishment of Malaysia's first ever national car brand – Proton – the national automotive policies in this country have evolved from simply a catalyst to bring its economy out of basic commodity dependence, to currently bringing the nation towards advanced nation status, and meaningful participation in the global economy.

We know now that such participation is not only about breaking into the global markets through competitive manufacturing alone. The Malaysian government recognises the importance of catering to the modern consumer, not only looking for the most competitive products that are fruits of free trade, but also products of fair trade, in line with internationally recognised sustainable development goals.

As fossil fuels become a scarcer commodity by the day, the importance of carbon footprint reduction, emission control and consumption of renewable, sustainable energy is becoming a more important goal in the region surrounding Malaysia.

As fossil fuels become a scarcer commodity by the day, the importance of carbon footprint reduction, emission control and consumption of renewable, sustainable energy is becoming a more important goal in the region surrounding Malaysia.

When the NAP 2014 was formulated, there was a requirement to formulate EV policies in line with the remaining popularity of internal combustion engines, as the costs and utility of electric vehicles gained very little traction – thus the NAP2014 focused on a broader array of technology on energy efficient vehicles (EEVs).

In order to spur growth of EEV penetration, the NAP addressed this through the introduction of customised incentives – in which car makers that invested in high value activities within Malaysia would be given incentives that were tailored to their individual business models.

EEV penetration increased to 62% of total industry volume at the end of 2018, with Malaysian consumers showing a keen interest in energy efficient products, although a large portion sought efficient internal combustion vehicles rather than hybrids or electric vehicles.

The higher costs of vehicles that utilised electric motors, be it hybrids or full battery electric vehicles (BEV), prohibited a mass introduction, as the country was still used to a transportation cost framework that was highly dependent on low fossil fuel prices. Despite this, the country took necessary steps in introducing alternative powertrain technology to a market that was predominantly in its infancy stage in the area of electrification.

In 2015, MARii began work with technology organisations in Australia on the development of an electric bus prototype, in order to spur localisation of electric vehicle systems and components. So far, the project has reached its final stages of research and development, and is expected to be ready for the commercialisation process within the year. On top of this, there have been several other privately driven initiatives to develop electric commercial vehicles is selected test beds around Klang Valley.

To spur consumer awareness of electric vehicle use, MARii led collaborations with many parties to allow the public to overcome their anxiety with battery range and cost restructuring of the electromobility lifestyle. These collaborations included encouraging electric car sharing programmes, improving public charging facilities and encouraging green vehicle parking spots within densely populated parking areas.

Within the same period, numerous Malaysian standards and regulations have been established and gazetted for EVs, including electric passenger cars, motorcycles, mopeds, and bicycles. These standards include UN Regulation 100 (safety requirement for electric powertrains of road vehicles), Electric motorcycles (MS 2413/UN R136) and Electric mopeds (MS 2688). These standards are not limited to vehicles only, but also include standards for new components in EVs, such as connectors and inlets (MS IEC 62196), charging systems (MS IEC 61851), sockets (SAE 1772) and testing standards for lithium-ion batteries (MS IEC 61851).

As of November last year, there were more than 195 public EV charging locations, with an estimated 4,345,046km of charging range, thus avoiding an estimated 431,948kg of CO2 emissions.

While awareness of zero emission vehicles have increased over the past half-decade, it is important to note that national development cannot be achieved without aligning to sustainable development goals (SDGs). True to its original purpose of spurring high technology businesses and jobs, the automotive sector in Malaysia is expected to undergo its next phase in development in line with SDGs.

The soon to be announced revision of the national automotive policy will focus on the development of ecosystems for Next Generation Vehicles (NxGVs), Mobility as a Service (MaaS), and Industry 4.0 technologies, while continuing its focus on enhancing the development of energy efficient vehicles, or EEVs (which include ICE, hybrid and electric powertrains).

NxGVs are a combination of energy-efficient-vehicles (EEVs) with new driving technology that would move towards full vehicle autonomy (Level 5).

The development would concentrate on two major areas, namely the evolution of powertrain technology and also technology in vehicle communication, fuel economy, autonomous driving and other technology that can be applied along the road towards full vehicle autonomy.

Throughout the current period of the NAP, a key focus was the enhancement of design capabilities within the OEM, as well as parts and components suppliers – covering product and process design, development, engineering simulation, and testing. Numerous capacity building programmes have been implemented – such as the Automotive Industry Certification Engineering (AICE) and Design Engineering & Prototyping (DEP).

At the same time, the government through MARii has also established several centres of excellence to serve as focal points to enhancing upstream capabilities within the Malaysian ecosystem, such as MARii's Design Center, Academy of Technology and the National Emission Test Centre (NETC). These centres are also equipped with technologies that are compliant with Industry 4.0 capabilities including supercomputing, simulation, augmented reality, manufacturing execution systems, etc.

To spur the development of NxGVs under the new NAP, new centres of excellence will be developed to allow a common grounds for development and validation of new technologies.

To spur the development of NxGVs under the new NAP, new centres of excellence will be developed to allow a common grounds for development and validation of new technologies.

In developing local capabilities in new powertrains, the government is planning the development of an EV Operability Centre (EVIC), a shared test centre for the development of EVs and EV-related products and systems as part of its roadmaps of the NAP. The EVIC will be able to test vehicle-grid interoperability, cybersecurity and communication safety in an EV ecosystem, leveraging on big data management to allow real-time reporting and accurate decision making throughout the ecosystem.

The EVIC will also feature an EV test bed, complete with buildings, charging stations, solar powered energy farming and storage, weather simulators, etc. It will also include data-driven, smart grid integration solutions that allow for measurement and oversight of the entire chain of electromobility, from the point energy is farmed, to the point where energy is consumed in the electric vehicle.

An Autonomous Vehicle Test Bed (AVTB) is currently in the works, not only as a facility to test autonomous vehicles but also for all businesses in the mobility ecosystem to collectively design and validate their products in a single location, in collaboration with all members that contribute to the design pool for autonomous driving.

Overall, Malaysia is already laying the framework for new mobility technologies to flourish within the country, as well as the region. The new national automotive policy will continue its proven framework of customised incentives into this new era of digitalisation within the automotive sector, and to propel overall mobility in line with sustainable development goals for all within the region.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).