Can You Take an Electric City Car on a Malaysian Road Trip? (Ft. Opel Mokka-e)
There are modern EV range behemoths that'd do 500+ kilometres comfortably on a single charge. But there's a problem with these vehicles - cost.
With larger battery packs, manufacturers have had to increase the MSRP of these cars to maintain profitability. Realistically speaking, Singaporean drivers do not need the big range, which is probably why you see a lot of electric city cars on our roads.
These are more affordable than their ultra long range counterparts, and in all honesty, most modern entry-level EVs are capable of handling all of one's commute needs, clocking about 300 kilometres on a single charge. Aside from the badge, you really aren't missing out a lot of mechanical ability, especially in a local context.
And these vehicles are surprisingly competent in jaunts across the border, as, in theory, you'd really only need a quick juice-up along the North-South Highway for the car to comfortably make it to Kuala Lumpur. But instead of accepting the theory as fact, we decided to find out if there's any truth to that statement.
As such, along with our friends at Opel, we decided embark on a fact-finding weekend road trip with the Opel Mokka-e, which will see us making stops along the way to KL, including at Muar, Port Dickson, and finally to various locations within KL itself.
The plan was to set off nice and early on day one to try and beat any traffic that'd build up on the causeway around the lunch hour. However, due to external circumstances not related to the car itself, our itinerary was delayed. Not that it ultimately mattered, for there was no queue in sight even when we crossed over at 11:45 am.
We breezed through Malaysian customs too, and set out sights on our very first stop for the day. This would be for a late lunch at Ayer Hitam, which also boasted two EV charging stations. We stopped at Petron, which housed Gentari's mix of 50kW and 180kW DC chargers. As the Mokka-e could not utilise the 180kW DC standard (to be fair, most modern EVs top out at 50-100kW), it was plugged into one of the 50kW DC chargers.
At this point, we were 120 kilometres into our journey, and were famished. The plan originally was to walk into the town and grab some grub. Originally being the keyword, as we ended up just dining at Petron's in-house cafe. Our dietary needs were satisfied around the same time as the car finished its charging. An indicated 96% state of charge was registered on the cluster, up from the 55% at the time we plugged it in.
We now had enough range to get to our overnight stop at Port Dickson, even if we cruised at (or in theory, over) the speed limit. Our destination was just 210 kilometres away, and with the consumption being at 6.5km/kWh, we'd still reach comfortably with about a 50+ kilometre buffer.
With that in mind, we decided to make a detour to check out some sights in Muar. The winding roads here were potholed, but the Mokka-e shrugged off the challenge, shuttling us from attraction to attraction in relative comfort. Despite the spirited driving, we failed to make a real dent in its range.
Right before getting back on the NSHW proper, we opted to make a stop at a Shell station for a comfort break. The station happened to have a 180kW DC high-speed charger, and as I also had some pressing work matters to settle, we decided to plug the car in.
As we didn't consume a lot of energy to get here from the previous station, the car could fully charge in % the time it took me to settle all of the issues I had to deal with. Our destination was just 140 kilometres away now, and the car made quick work of the distance. The Mokka-e, despite being well out of its comfort zone, competently and convincingly coped with the fast moving traffic of the NSHW.
It was generally silent and stable, and the seats offered excellent support, so fatigue was kept at bay even after hundreds of kilometres on the road.
The next bit of the journey went by in a flash, and we managed to reach our overnight spot well before sunset. This gave us plenty of time to explore the costal areas of Port Dickson, and to admire the sunset and natural beauty of this province.
After dinner, the Mokka-e was shifted to the chargeEV station near PD Waterfront, right by the Starbucks near the beachfront. As the station wasn't officially commissioned yet, chargeEV allowed EV drivers to charge their cars for free. The downtime was spent on a scenic night bike ride and some dessert, and we set off to our hotel with 98% in the battery pack.
Some congestion hampered our progress early on the next morning. My companion and I happen to be avid escape room goers, so we've already tried all of the rooms on offer locally. Berjaya Times Square was where we were headed to, as it had one of the highest rated escape rooms in KL. This was 100 kilometres from the area of Port Dickson that we were in.
Rather surprisingly, the commute failed to even make an impression in the Mokka-e's range, with over 65% left by the time we reached KL. As we'd be spending quite a bit of time in the mall, it'd be wise to add as much range as we could. The mall had AC destination charging facilities, which we made use of as we went about our day.
Most of the commutes on day 2 were within the confines of KLCC, so the Mokka-e definitely felt most at home throughout this bit of our road trip. We opted to have lunch at a familiar spot, before ending the day at one of KL's newest karting venues.
And it felt like a fitting end to the second day, as this kart track prides itself on providing a sustainable motorsport experience. This venue is none other than Evolt Karting, which utilises Sodi electric karts for a less polluting track experience.
Very similar values then, to what Opel intends to do with their local lineup. The German brand already has a comprehensive lineup of EVs, with compact city runabouts like the Mokka-e, to full-sized people carriers such as the Zafira-e, and even commercial vehicle options in the form of the Combo-e and Vivaro-e.
A trip to KL would not be complete without doing touristy things at the Petronas twin towers. We drove 30 kilometres to get to KLCC from Evolt Karting to do just that. Suria KLCC is equipped with a wide array of EV chargers, and we made use of one of its 30kW DC chargers to add range whilst we went about sightseeing and settling our dinner for the evening.
The third and final day of our road trip was primarily a commute back to Singapore. Any sightseeing along the way was a bonus. Setting off slightly after lunch, we started the 150 kilometre journey to our first charge stop of the trip. EVPower MY has a charging hub in Melaka, equipped with a good mix of fast DC charging and slower AC destination charging.
Pulling up at the charger, we had about 45% left in the battery, as traffic was fairly fast moving on the way down. Manufacturers typically recommend you charge your EV up to 80% to prolong the life of your battery. Some quick mental arithmetic suggested that even at 80%, it'd make the drive down to JB with about 15% to spare.
What better way to do a real-world test than to actually try it out for ourselves? There was a sizable shopping centre nearby, so we dropped by for some retail therapy and a snack as the car charged up.
Traffic had already built up by the time we were back on the move. Google Maps estimated that the 200 kilometre journey to our final stop on our Malaysian road trip would take almost three hours. Before we headed on the B-roads that'd take us back on the highway, we stocked up on snacks at a nearby petrol station, and settled in for the long haul.
We reached Skudai R&R at around 8:45pm having consumed about 65% of the battery's 50kWh capacity. The car charged up as we had dinner, and we set off with 98%, which was sufficient for the journey back to Singapore and for another morning's worth of commuting the very next day.
What Have we Learnt?
If your itinerary has been planned properly, a affordable electric city car, like the Mokka-e, can properly tackle long distance driving without charging affecting your travels.
The electric drivetrain also means you commute in silence, which plays a big role in preserving your cool especially when you are stuck in heavy traffic. And there's more. Regenerative braking allows you to rely less on your friction brakes, which translates into less energy expended from moving your foot between the throttle and brake pedals. Insignificant on a short drive, but you'd feel the difference when your commute is over 350 kilometres long.
Charging also forces you to explore the city that you are in. It creates sufficient time for your eyes and mind to relax, so you'd be more alert when you find yourself back behind the wheel. Malaysia's EV charging infrastructure is also fairly developed, save for a few patchy spots in between Port Dickson and Kuala Lumpur. Charging was never a pain point throughout this trip, nor was the Mokka-e's range.
If you are on the fence about going electric, and your primary concern is range, our road trip to KL with Opel is proof that you can now make the switch. Modern EVs and the supporting infrastructure is now well developed enough that range anxiety really isn't a significant issue anymore.
Editor's Note: The total trip distance was about 1,000 kilometres, and all charging was done in Malaysia. We used about $60 in electricity to complete the trip.
Photo Credit: ACube Creative (@weareacube)
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