NanoMalaysia REVIVE initiative – will EV conversions of ICE cars be legalised in Malaysia in the near future?

In an earlier report on the NanoMalaysia Energy Storage Technology Initiative (NESTI) programme, it was mentioned by the ministry of science, technology and innovation (MOSTI) that the Enabling Mobility Electrification for Green Economy (EMERGE) programme by NanoMalaysia has received funding from the Strategic Research Fund under the Malaysia Grand Challenge.

One of the initiatives under EMERGE is the Rapid Electric Vehicles Innovation Validation Ecosystem (REVIVE), which was created to focus on the “conversion of regular engines to electric engines.” The Bernama report didn’t provide additional information on this specific matter, but it can be assumed that this involves converting cars that use an internal combustion engine (ICE) to feature a fully electric drive system instead.

As we discovered previously, this isn’t something that the road transport department (JPJ) allows under Section 6(1) of the Road Transport Act 1987 as well as Rule 9B of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Rules 1959.

To recap, under the Road Transport Act 1987, Section 6(1) states that it is unlawful (i.e., illegal) to use a motor vehicle which “does not comply with the rules as to construction, weight, equipment, use and age applicable to the class or description of motor vehicle to which such motor vehicle belongs.”

This is pretty straightforward, as it means if your car doesn’t conform to its original specification, it can’t be used on public roads. However, the department can provide authorisation to cars that are built for special purposes like testing, which is something we’ve seen in the past like EV Innovations’ MyKar that is based on a Honda Jazz.

Meanwhile, Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Rules 1959, which received a revision in the form of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) Rules 2011, saw the addition of rules 9A and 9B. These state that a motor vehicle cannot be constructed unless it has received prior approval of the director general. Again, it’s pretty direct, indicating you can’t build a car on your own unless you have been given the approval to do so.

This includes electric motor vehicles that must meet certain specifications when it comes to the type of battery and electrical wiring system used and their installation – electric motorcycles must meet the MS 2413 specification as well. Other requirements for an electric motor vehicle include bearing a clear, distinct and untampered motor serial number and chassis number; have a maximum design speed exceeding 50 km/h; and have a climbing capability exceeding 20% gradient.

With the slight exception mentioned above, the general public can’t simply put an electric motor into their existing ICE cars and drive them on public roads. However, could the REVIVE initiative we talked about at the start pave the way for EV conversions of ICE cars to be legalised in Malaysia?

This could be a reality, although it will certainly require government bodies to work together and establish necessary standards for such conversions as well as rule amendments. A proper way to validate ICE cars that have been converted to EVs is also important, given that EVs run on high-voltage systems and require critical safeguards in the event of an accident.

Realistically, converting an ICE car to become an EV requires a lot of development work and resources to ensure standards are met. This won’t be something that the average car owner is capable of, but companies set up specifically and certified to carry out these conversions are feasible.

Outside Malaysia, there are companies that specialise in providing such services such as London Electric Cars and Lunaz Design, just to name a few. The Thailand government even considered converting used cars into EVs through the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), while Indonesia has began a pilot project converting ICE motorcycles to electric power earlier this year.

Depending on the impact of the REVIVE initiative, there could come a day where you can bring your ICE car to an approved company and have it converted to run on electric power. What are your thoughts on this? Is this something worth exploring to promote the adoption of EVs in Malaysia?

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