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Just how feasible is it to do a long drive into Malaysia with an electric vehicle? Jason finds out on his first trip back home in over two years.

25 Apr 2022

If memory serves me right, my first drive in an electric car was in a Corbin Sparrow way back in 2002. I wouldn't call it a test drive as I was merely shifting the car into place for a showcase but I vividly remember the spartan interior, powerless steering and unassisted brakes. Instead of a satisfying thud when closing the door, you'd get an unconvincing plasticky clang, making you doubt if the doors are shut properly. However quirky it was, boy did it turn heads with an almost neon orange paintwork and its comical stance.

Electric cars have indeed come a long way and I was beyond elated after being handed the keys to the BMW iX for a drive into Malaysia recently. Although I've had the opportunity to drive various EVs locally, this was technically the longest 'overseas' drive I've done in pure electric.

Charging the car is also a good time to fuel up the stomach for a long trip
I started the journey making sure I had a full charge at Shell Bukit Batok Nature Park. The half hour charge gave me time to check the tyre pressures, purchase some snacks and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed Kopi O. (30 mins for 15.1kwh @ $8.30).

Get going

With 410km in range and my five-year old daughter in tow, we finally hit the open roads after two long years of hibernation. As the checkpoints and highways were rather empty, I could keep my speeds hovering constantly at 110km/h. Although Muar was my final destination, I had to take a longer route and a quick detour towards the southbound Shell at Tangkak, as it was the closest and fastest charging terminal. How fast? Try 180kW.

The Shell Recharge at Tangkak is currently the only high performance charging (HPC) terminal along the North-South Expressway. This will be soon be followed by Shell stations located at Seremban R&R (North Bound), Seremban R&R (South Bound), Pagoh R&R (South Bound), Simpang Pulai (North Bound) and Tapah R&R (South Bound).

The HPC terminal at Shell Tangkak offers up to 180kW charging, which is significantly higher than can be typically found in Singapore right now
Unlike the Recharge terminals in Singapore that allow payment and terminal status update via the app, the Recharge terminals in Malaysia are operated by a third party app, called Park Easy. Although it allowed me to pre-book my charging lot one hour prior to arriving, I wasn't able to view the status of the terminals. Instead of throwing caution to the wind, I dropped the station a call prior to leaving just to confirm if the terminals were in working order.

Arriving at Tangkak with 38% charge, it took 29 mins to get to 80%, which again was just enough time for a toilet break, a quick bite and a latte from Costa Coffee. But faster charging also came with a premium at RM164.00. (28 mins for 32kWh @ RM160.00). Whilst in Muar, driving was kept to a minimal mainly to get food or to run errands. For the trip back, I made one last charge at Shell Tangkak, taking the car from 51% back to 100%. (42 mins for 36kWh @ RM204.00). The return drive was more spirited and I eventually arrived back home in Singapore with 17% in range. Getting back to 100% took about an hour and a half (1 hr 34 mins for 60.46 kWh @ $33.25).

With a little more planning and patience, a long drive in an EV is certainly possible
Although long distance drives in EVs are clearly possible, one would require a lot more route/charging planning and definitely a lot more patience. As charging infrastructure and vehicle technology improves, the gap between functionality and reality will indeed become smaller.

Pleasing going

One would think that an EV would provide a sterile and boring drive but I was proved very wrong. Please pardon my gloating but this was one of the best drives I've had in a long time.

Most EVs produce a faint motor whine that is audible whilst driving, but the iX on the other hand provides a very silent ride, giving you an impression that you're encapsulated in a cocoon. Describing the ride comfort as akin to a magic carpet ride wouldn't sound far fetched too. The leather seat upholstery (tanned with olive leaf extract) is so soft to the touch yet supple enough to wrap comfortingly around your body.

The BMW iX proved to be a lovely EV companion for Jason's journey back home
The driver and passenger seats also came with a rolling massage function (not those weird vibrating ones), which is a big thumb's up for long drives. With the car being so well insulated, the miles just seem to waft by as you're serenaded with a 18 speaker Harmon Kardon surround sound system. I can best compare this experience with flying Suites on Singapore Airlines.

No car is perfect and there were two things which I disliked. Firstly, the car has a LARGE turning radius, so you'd have to readjust your driving style especially when doing u-turns. Secondly, I had to return the car when I was back in Singapore.

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road trip  electric  ev  ix  bmw ix  bmw electric  electric vehicles  malaysia