BEIJING: The electric vehicle assembly plant in Gurun, Kedah, which is set to turn Malaysia into a hub for electric vehicles in Southeast Asia, is expected to be operational in July next year with an initial investment of up to RM300 million.
The project is undertaken by China's Beijing Auto International Cooperation (BAIC), the country's top and world's second biggest electric vehicle manufacturer, in collaboration with a Malaysian partner, Amber Dual Sdn Bhd.
Amber Dual managing director Shabudin Md Saman said the project got off the ground with research and development (R&D) in Gurun, mainly to change the left-hand drive system to right-hand drive at the cost of about RM50 million.
He said the prototype electric vehicle developed in Gurun is expected to be ready in December, with the first production expected in July 2016.
The Gurun plant, being built at the cost of between RM200 million and RM300 million, will also serve as a marketing centre for BAIC vehicles not only for the Malaysian market but also that of the Southeast Asia, he said when met at the BAIC production plant here.
Shabudin said BAIC is targeting a production of between 2,000 and 3,000 electric vehicles next year, after which it would be increased gradually yearly as demand for electric vehicles are still low as it is a new technology.
"BAIC has appointed us as its representative that tap into the markets in Southeast Asian and the region.
"Our company has also set our mind on a higher goal as we do not want to rely solely on BAIC technology, instead we aim at adding value in the vehicle design. We aspire to lead Malaysia's electric vehicle technology.
"Government help is also needed as electric vehicle technology requires high financing, especially in installing vehicle battery-charging facilities.
"We are also working on battery technology on our own. For an electric vehicle, the battery alone accounts for one-third of its cost," he said.
Meanwhile, BAIC senior vice-president (sales) Li Ji said the company is confident that Malaysia would become an important electric vehicle hub in Southeast Asia as it has good infrastructure to support its growth.