How is EV road tax calculated in Malaysia? How much road tax do you pay for a Porsche Taycan, BMW iX in Malaysia?
Gone are the days of calculating road tax based on pure displacement alone, at least in our country. The way JPJ currently determines how much an EV owner should pay to drive their zero-emissions runabout on our road network is much different and more confusing, even archaic and intentionally problematic..
Nevertheless, let’s attempt to make some sense of the EV road tax structure in Malaysia as it stands in 2021. As the world moves to phase out internal combustion engines from the majority of urban roads, it’s important for governments to establish a clearly defined and fair tax scheme that can pay for the upkeep of infrastructure while also incentivising the adoption of electric vehicles. That's pretty obvious.
Aside from the pioneering Nissan Leaf, over the past year we have seen multiple high-profile EVs such as the Porsche Taycan (from RM7,504 per year in road tax) and, most recently, the BMW iX (from RM3,063 per year in road tax), make their local debuts. However, due to our country’s road tax structure calculations being based on power output, buyers might have been shocked to find out how much they would need to fork out each year to keep their new environmentally-conscious green vehicles on the road, especially if they aren't slow - introductory road tax discounts notwithstanding.
Besides the total rate being dependent on power output, which you can equate to the ‘engine displacement’ used to determine road tax in internal combustion cars, the second thing to understand about EV road tax is how there are different base and progressive rates depending on the type of vehicle.
The third pillar to grasp is the use of kilowatts (kW) as a unit of measure for power instead of the far more familiar horsepower (hp) or its German equivalent PS (Pferdestärke).
We understand using SI units to denote power is more uniform and more widely used in the science and engineering world, but it just seems like another factor of needless complexity since:
Getting further into the weeds, vehicle body style has now become a factor in rate calculation as different rates are used exclusively for electric saloon cars, for some reason.
Pertaining to literally every other passenger car besides a typical 3-box saloon, which is also up to interpretation, JPJ has decided to place them in an 'other' or 'dan lain-lain’ category for which a different base and progressive rate applies. Clearly, our easy comprehension wasn’t a concern when this mess was devised.
To keep things a little more simplified at first, let’s assume you are looking to buy a saloon car, an electric one, and privately registered. Four doors, up to five seats, a boot in the back, and a non-engine upfront. Since it has a category all to itself, this must be the format that most conforms to the government’s definition of a typical EV.
Here, we come to the first fork in the road: a hard dividing line between cars under or over 80kW (107.3hp). If your EV has an output below 80kW, you’ll pay a fixed price:
If your EV saloon’s motors produces more than 80kW, which is quite likely, then things are more complicated. You’ll be paying a base rate as well as a certain amount for every 0.05kW over the power bracket’s starting value. Let’s tabulate this:
EV (saloon body style), rated power above 80kW
Progressive Rate (per 0.05kW)
80kW - 90kW
90kW - 100kW
100kW - 125kW
125kW - 150kW
150kW and above
For example, with the above values in mind, if your EV saloon has an rated output of 105kW (141hp), you be paying a base rate of RM274 annually since it falls into the 100-125kW bracket. With the RM0.50 per 0.05kW (or RM10 per additional kW over 100kW) progressive charges coming to RM50, it takes the total payable annual road tax to RM324.
For EVs that don’t fit the mould of saloon car, which we assume would include everything from hatchbacks, pick-ups, liftbacks, wagons, coupes, convertibles, crossovers, and SUVs, there’s a different set of fixed and progressive rates - you know, just to screw with you.....
50kW and under - RM20
50kW - 60kW - RM42.50
60kW - 70kW - RM50
70kW - 80kW - RM60
Renault Twizy and Zoe owners rejoice!
Here, at least they've kept the framework, opting to set the dividing line at 80kW with those below only being burdened with a fixed annual rate while those above it requiring to pay an additional progressive rate over a base rate.
EV (non-saloon body style), rated power above 80kW
First of all, it’s clear to see that electric saloons are being singled out and taxed significantly higher than literally every other body style, especially if power output exceeds 80kW - which it will. Perhaps this focus on saloon cars stems from the desire to exploit the premium EV market made up of cars like the Tesla Model S and competitors like the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT.
Secondly, it’s not hard to see the immediate flaw in taxing EVs this way - based on their power output - as it not only disincentivises buyers outright by oftentimes resulting in high profile EVs costing more in road tax than their ICE-powered counterparts, but punishes the fact that electric motor output is generally higher than petrol and diesel cars to maintain a practical power-to-weight ratio.
Even the humble Nissan Leaf produces 110kW (148hp) from a single e-motor driving its front wheels. Given it’s a hatchback, the Leaf's base road tax would cost RM243 per year plus another RM88 in progressive charges, bringing its total to RM331.
Finding an EV that is large and practical enough to be a main vehicle but has a low enough power output to avoid progressive road tax charges will impossible.
The seemingly arbitrary rate values and road tax structure for EVs are clearly borne of either ignorance or short-term greed but underscores a reluctance to encourage the adoption of post-combustion drivetrains. Rather than encouraging buyers, it chooses to be prohibitive.
The overwhelming majority EVs today, even if the full complement of globally available models were somehow also available in Malaysia right now, will not escape these ridiculous progressive charges.
As is the trend with all vehicles, every subsequent model will also likely be more powerful than the one that came before, making Malaysia’s EV road tax policy even more untenable with each model year update. If left unchanged, annual road tax renewal costs will increase exponentially. This is a problem.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.