With petrol prices seeming to shoot back up as demand increases, does it make sense to pick a hybrid vehicle? Or perhaps even something fully electric?
Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world where hybrid vehicles are competitively priced. Yes, you would imagine with many other countries pushing for electrification and lower emissions, hybrid vehicles would be incentivized - but the reality is that hybrid vehicles still have numerous complex and expensive components that drive the prices up.
In fact, in most of Europe, if you're looking for a more fuel-efficient proposition, diesel-powered vehicles are the norm. Unfortunately for us, our diesel quality just isn't good enough to run some of the fancier diesel models that Europeans enjoy - the particulate filters and injectors would simply get clogged too quickly. This then means that if you're looking for something more fuel-efficient, hybrid vehicles are the way to go.
With petrol prices on the rise, fuel efficiency may be a looming concern if you want to keep your monthly expenditure down. This then begs the question: does a hybrid vehicle, plug-in or otherwise, become the better value proposition? Unfortunately, the answer isn't as simple or clear cut, because it depends heavily on when you enter hybrid vehicle ownership and various other factors.
From a maintenance perspective, most hybrid vehicles sold here will be covered under a maintenance plan - at least for luxury models, this happens to be the case. For more mass-market items, general maintenance over the course of the first three to five years isn't going to be drastically different from a car with a purely conventional powertrain.
Beyond that, however, is when things become a little tricky. Batteries have been a pain point for second or third-hand hybrid owners, even from the previous generation of mass-market hybrid models that Malaysians are accustomed to. With higher-end models that have larger, more expensive batteries, you naturally expect this cost to increase.
A Volvo T8 hybrid battery costs 17,000 GBP to replace (RM 97,680) in the UK - though it's hard to say what it would cost here. In Europe, the G20 330e is known to have a battery replacement cost of roughly 1,000 Euro a battery module (of which there are six) which comes to around RM 29,588. There are plenty of examples that we've seen where battery costs, as well as the other hybrid-specific components that wear and need replacement, can be enormously expensive.
Again, this isn't usually a problem for those buying cars brand new - but it does pose a problem if you're looking to take on a hybrid vehicle somewhere further down the life cycle. The secondary problem is - just how much extra range can you get, and how much fuel do you save? In all honesty, this question depends heavily on your driving style. A Perodua Myvi can achieve over 500 kilometres on a tank of 35 litres, but you could also burn through 45 litres of fuel in under 300 kilometres in a hybrid vehicle if you're always pushing it - your mileage most definitely may vary.
Even if you say that Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are then a viable option, for the vast majority of Malaysians it really isn't. Many PHEV owners don't even get to charge their vehicles by plugging them in - whether it's because they don't have a charging system at home or because they live in an apartment, or they don't have one at their workplace, or they can't find a mall spot with one. Utilising the PH aspect of a PHEV isn't the easiest thing in the world.
With all of this in mind, it then means that maybe hybrid vehicles aren't the last word in fuel consumption. The best way to save fuel is to adapt your driving style, and that even goes as far as planning your movements around traffic jams and being conscious as to not idle your car when you're sat for long periods of time. Just be thankful that we're not paying as much for petrol as the Thais, Singaporeans, and pretty much anyone in Europe (RM 5.85/litre RON 95) or the USA (RM 3.47/litre RON 95).