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Audi E-Tron Feature: Can you drive an EV to Malaysia?

Ben Chia
26/05/2022
2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

Yes you can, but if it does take some adjustment. We take a road trip with a trio of Audi’s E-Tron electric cars to find out how feasible it is to drive up North in an EV


Photos: Audi Singapore

MALAYSIA

Something happened in Singapore over the past two years. A major change swept across the country, upending the lifestyles of people here, and ensuring that things will never be the same again.

Nasty infectious viruses aside, the past two years have also saw the rapid rise in acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs) in Singapore. As the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) statistics bear out, at the end of 2019, just before Covid-19 descended upon us, there were 1,120 electric cars on the roads in Singapore. By the end of 2021, that number has nearly tripled, to 2,942 units.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia Markus Schuster CarBuyer Singapore
Audi Singapore’s managing director Markus Schuster has been impressed by the EV growth in Singapore over the last two years

As Audi Singapore’s managing director Markus Schuster (above) pointed out, the growth in EVs here in such a short span of time has been pretty impressive. The brand launched its first EV, the E-Tron SUV, at the Singapore Motor Show in early 2020. Today, their electric car portfolio is now five-model strong, with firm plans to expand the line-up aggressively in the future, and from 2025 on, every new Audi launched will be electrified.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

Part of the reason for the greater acceptance of EVs here has to do with the slew of incentives that the Government has offered to encourage the take-up of electrified models, in the form of substantial tax rebates. But there’s also a theory that with the pandemic restricting outbound travel, car buyers were more willing to switch to EVs without having to worry too much about driving to Malaysia, given the uncertainty of when the borders would open.

Now that Singaporeans are allowed to travel again though, that question has come into relevance once more. Pre-Covid, driving to Malaysia was almost a ritual of sorts for large number of Singaporeans, for a huge variety of reasons, which is unsurprising given the close ties between the people of both countries. Going on a long road trip up the North-South Highway (NSH) to places like Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and beyond was a regular affair for many folks here.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

The key difference between EVs and internal combustion engine (ICE) cars is of course propulsion. Driving an ICE car into Malaysia is no issue given that one could easily fuel up the tank at any petrol station (and many certainly do, taking advantage of the favourable exchange rate). Driving an EV however requires a fundamental change of mindset and behaviour, not to mention the major infrastructure changes needed in the form of charging stations and the requisite network to support them.

How well has Malaysia fared in that regard though, and is it now feasible to drive an EV into Malaysia without the fear of being stranded when you run out of juice? That’s what we were going to find out when Audi invited us to drive a trio of their electric E-Tron models on a Kuala Lumpur road trip.

Entering Malaysia

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

For some reason, Audi elected to fly us up into KL and let us drive back to Singapore. Covid has definitely upended international travel protocols to some extent, and things are a bit different now than it was two years ago before the virus wreaked havoc on this planet. That said, things are now somewhat simplified and for the most part, you don’t really need to deal with things like pre-departure Covid tests any longer.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia MySejahtera CarBuyer Singapore
Here’s what the Travellers Card looks like once you filled it up in the MySejahtera app

To fly into Malaysia, you need to download the MySejahtera app (Malaysia’s equivalent of TraceTogether) and update your vaccination status within the app. For foreign travellers, you also need to fill out the Travellers Card (above), which entails answering questions about your visit. Malaysia has lifted most restrictions as of 1 May 2022, but you will still be asked to verify your status in the app at the airport (both Singapore and KL), so it’s best you do it ahead of your trip.

A second group of writers did the inverse (i.e. they drove up and flew back), and to our understanding, there is no necessity to fill out the Travellers Card if you’re entering Malaysia by land. That means things are essentially back to as it were pre-Covid, and all you really need is a Touch N Go card to pay the tolls if you’re driving in.

Charging an EV in Malaysia

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

We come back to the question, can you charge an EV in Malaysia? The answer is yes, but it does come with some caveats.

Like Singapore, Malaysia has been striving to expand its EV charging network over the past couple of years. Leaving aside questions of efficiency, it has to be noted that Malaysia is a much bigger country than Singapore, and therefore is has to be somewhat expected that their infrastructure development may not have expanded as quickly as it has here.

Also, as with most developing technologies, there are a variety of charging service providers, and they all differ in terms of usability and functionality. Charging network operators include national utilities provider Tenaga Nasional, petroleum firms like Petronas, Shell and Caltex, as well as private operators such as chargEV, JOMcharge, and ParkEasy, the latter of which is partnered with Shell’s Recharge network.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

chargEV is the largest EV charging network in Malaysia at the moment, with over 300 stations, including several within KL city centre itself. However, they only provide slow-speed AC charging, which means that you are facing a minimum of a few hours wait in order to recharge your EV. Their network is apparently also only compatible with a selected number of EV models, so it’s probably best to check ahead of time if your car can be hooked up to their charger.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

JOMcharge, on the other hand, has just 23 chargers in the country, making them the smallest operator. But many of their chargers are located at Caltex stations along the highway, and they provide fast DC charging as well, which means you can do a quick charge while taking a break at a rest stop. They also offer access to other chargers that’s not affiliated to their brand, while JOMcharge have also partnered with Singaporean firm City Energy to set up a seamless cross-border charging network, so expect things to improve in the years ahead.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

For our trip with Audi however, we charged the cars using the ParkEasy network. Along the NSH, there’s only one such charger that we could use, which is the Shell Recharge one situated at the Tangkak southbound rest stop, roughly halfway between KL and Singapore. It is however a 180kW DC super fast charger (what Shell calls a High Performance Charger, or HPC), and is currently the fastest EV charger in Malaysia.

Shell does have plans to add more 180kW DC chargers along the NSH, including one at the Pagoh northbound rest stop, but for now if you intend to take advantage of super fast charging in Malaysia, then Tangkak is your only option.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore
Jason Chew from Pitcrew Events (holding microphone) explaining how EV charging in Malaysia works

Using the ParkEasy system is also something that you need to get to grips with too. Jason Chew from Pitcrew Events who’s also a regular Malaysian traveller explains that as Malaysia doesn’t allow individuals to purchase electricity directly, what you’re paying for at the charging station is time usage. For ParkEasy, what you need to do is to set up an account first, then input RM200 worth of credits, and then use that to reserve your time at the desired station.

You can book your slot up to an hour before arrival, but Jason also advises to enquire ahead to make sure that the charger is actually available or working, to avoid any nasty surprises. Once you’ve reached the charging location, you will see a parking barrier on the lot. Indicate in the app that you’ve arrived, and the barrier will be lowered to allow you to park and recharge.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

At the moment, the rates at the Shell Tangkak station are RM20 for every 5 minutes, plus a RM4 ‘unlocking’ charge. It’s not the most affordable rate by any means, but given that it is a super fast charger, you can try to guesstimate and minimise your time spent there based on how fast your car is able to get juiced up. Which brings us to…

The Cars

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore
From left to right: Audi E-Tron S Sportback, Audi E-Tron GT, Audi RS E-Tron GT

The cars we drove in Malaysia were the Audi E-Tron GT, the Audi RS E-Tron GT, and the Audi E-Tron S Sportback, three high performance cars that were well capable of getting us from KL to Singapore in quick time, in theory at least.

Before we get to the cars’ performance though, let us answer the question of charging once more. How fast your car charges actually depends on the charging rate of both the station and your car.

While the Tangkak station charges at a rate of 180kW, the Audi E-Tron S Sportback has a charging rate of 150kW, and it’s the lower figure that determines how fast it gets juiced up. The E-Tron GT cars meanwhile has a charging rate of 270kW, which means that it can theoretically get recharged faster, if there’s a charger that can keep up.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

Regardless, for all three cars, it took us about half an hour each to regain a meaningful level of charge at Tangkak. You can, of course, choose to do a straight shot journey from KL to Singapore without stopping, and both the E-Tron GT cars are well capable of doing so as they have driving ranges of over 400km on a full charge. But on a long distance drive it would obviously be wise to take a break and refresh yourself anyway while recharging the car at the same time.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

In any case, the E-Tron GT and RS E-Tron GT did feel like the perfect vehicles to pull off a long haul trip across Malaysia. Their slippery shape and planted stance makes them ideal for cruising at triple digit speeds all day in comfort. And with 476hp and 598hp respectively on tap, there’s plenty of pace to keep up with even the fastest supercars down the NSH if you ever need to.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

The E-Tron S Sportback though fared somewhat less well. There’s still plenty of power in reserve to get you down the highway briskly, given that it’s a 496hp triple-motor machine, but its SUV shape and size meant that it didn’t feel quite as composed as its GT siblings. It’s also less efficient too, sucking down electrons at nearly twice the speed as the other two cars (35.6kWh per 100km was the figure we got for the E-Tron S Sportback). That cut its usable range down to around 300km or so, meaning that you must stop at least one or more times to refill its batteries if you want to reach Singapore from KL.

2022 Audi E-Tron EV Drive KL Malaysia CarBuyer Singapore

Ultimately, whether it’s feasible to drive an EV into Malaysia kinda depends on a few things. While the charging infrastructure is definitely improving in the country, it’s currently still at the growing pains stage, and thus some inconvenience is to be expected. It certainly helps to have an efficient EV that can cover longer distances without the need to stop, but with the advent of ultra fast charging and improved battery tech, it’s only a matter of time before driving an EV across Malaysia becomes as easy as going in to pump petrol.


Tags:

Audi drive e-tron e-tron gt e-tron s sportback e-tron sportback electric EV malaysia rs e-tron gt

About the Author

Ben Chia

CarBuyer's senior staff writer went out to explore the Great Big World, including a stint working in China (despite his limited Mandarin). Now he's back, ready to foist upon you his takes on everything good and wonderful about the automotive world. Follow Ben on Instagram @carbuyer.ben

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