Can You Drive To Kuala Lumpur With An Electric Car? Audi: Yes!

Text by James Wong; Photos by James Wong, Horizon Drivers' Club and Audi Singapore
18 May 2022
 

The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route is one of the busiest travel corridors in the world. Sat in a full flight now bound for Singapore, I’m packed like a sardine in a tin can, a sure sign that travel is back in full force.

Some may choose to drive, which is more palatable versus an Economy class seat on the aeroplane. We did this on the way up from Singapore with the e-tron GT, RS e-tron GT and the newest kid on the block, the e-tron S Sportback.

Wait, aren’t they electric vehicles?
Yes. The kicker here is that we took the road trip in Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). Commonly shunned for long road trips because of their need for charging, it is widely believed that it is far more inconvenient to drive a BEV than an internal combustion engine (ICE) car for such a journey.

Well, Audi aims to dispel this myth with their first-ever BEV media drive overseas. In fact, for many of us it is the first time we’re driving to Malaysia since COVID-19. The borders only opened on 1 April 2022 and since then, claustrophobic Singaporeans have been going into Malaysia in droves.

How was it like crossing the border?
Leaving around 9am from Audi Centre Singapore, we took a leisurely drive across the Tuas Checkpoint. Anton from Horizon Drivers’ Club and I were assigned the RS e-tron GT for this first leg of the trip.

It was pretty much a breeze. We didn’t have our vaccination status checked, nor did we need to show the MySejahtera App, although we did prepare those beforehand. Everything proceeded as it was before, familiar and nothing out of the ordinary (a very good thing). Over the infamous killer humps at immigration, the RS e-tron GT was super comfortable with its three-chamber air suspension.

Selamat Datang ke Malaysia! What’s next?
Finally being able to do longer distances than our small little island, it was liberating. All 646 PS and 830 Nm were put to full use towards our stop at Tangkak (~190 km away), with a driver change along the way. The RS e-tron GT felt unflappable, and was reasonably efficient in making swift progress, too.

What was the charge level at Tangkak?
We started off with just under 400 km of indicated range in the RS e-tron GT at Audi Centre Singapore. By the time we were at Tangkak, we were left with ~200 km of range, which means the estimated range is pretty accurate. With Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur being another ~160 km away, theoretically, it would have been possible to drive the whole journey without a charge. But the margin for error is thin.

However, it definitely wasn’t possible to drive to KL without a charge for the e-tron S Sportback, which reported much higher energy consumption than the other two cars. It was left with only ~100 km of range at Tangkak. We suspect its less aerodynamic shape, heavier weight and tri-motor setup could be possible causes (official WLTP range: up to 378 km versus up to 488 km in the e-tron GT and up to 472 km in the RS e-tron GT).

All cars were charged while we were whisked away for lunch at Golden Sand Restaurant in Tangkak (food was excellent, by the way). While this was very convenient for us famished journalists, I can’t imagine it would be this smooth in real life especially if the charging stations were occupied.

Where did you charge and was it fast?
The cars were charged at Shell Tangkak, which is currently the fastest charging location available in Malaysia, juicing up at 180 kW via DC. Over lunch of about 1.5 hours including transfers, the cars were charged up to about 80%. Despite that, at the next stop in Ayer Keroh just some 60 km later, the e-tron S Sportback (our next car after the RS) got yet another charge, out of precaution.

OK, so the e-tron S Sportback is less efficient, but how does it drive?
Since it’s the first time we’re trying it, here are some thoughts. It’s pretty much like the e-tron SUV, which we felt was pretty good in our road test in Singapore. There’s plenty of top-shelf interior materials and build quality, refinement is beyond reproach and it looks fairly interesting as a Sportback too, almost like a more sophisticated Lamborghini Urus.

However, the e-tron S Sportback has a more complicated tri-motor setup (one in front, two at the back at each wheel), which didn’t seem to bode very well for efficiency. There are reported gains in traction due to torque vectoring, but we didn’t get to test this very much on the straight-line highway drive.

Otherwise, it is rather brilliant for the North-South Highway, a quiet, comfortable and relaxing place to be. Ride comfort is a smidgen worse than in the e-tron GTs, though.

Surely you had the trademark fast food at Ayer Keroh?
Yes we did – after A&W float and curly fries, we continued the last leg of our journey to KL in the base e-tron GT.

Base? Meaning cheap?
Not quite. The entry-level GT good for up to 530 PS and 640 Nm is actually positioned approximately with the Porsche Taycan 4S, having a dual-motor setup rather than the base Taycans single motor rear setup. So it’s more expensive than a base Taycan, but you do get pretty much most of what the RS e-tron GT will provide you behind the wheel. In fact, they feel virtually identical aside from the obvious extra speed and acceleration from the RS. If you were choosing between the two, the starter GT is plenty good enough.

In your honest opinion, can you drive BEV to KL?
With forward planning and some patience, yes. The charging network is rapidly expanding and 5 more stations on top of Shell Tangkak are being added to the Shell Recharge network, aside from other infrastructure. Apparently, there are currently more stations southbound than there are northbound.

On our northbound route, I wished we had the chance to try the charging for ourselves, which would have given us a more accurate experience of the journey. An educated guess is that, for now, the charging stations would not be utilised so much so there are no queuing issues. Once they get more popular though, stopping for a charge may get tiresome, especially when it’s an isolated station rather than the Golden Sand Restaurant that you’re waiting at.

The car you drive also matters. In the case of the e-tron GT variants, both cars completed the trip effortlessly and could possibly even do it without any need to recharge. For the e-tron S Sportback, it’s a different story with its higher energy consumption, so more planning is required.

That doesn’t detract from the fact that all three cars are excellent long distance vehicles which made the journey far easier and more relaxing. Certainly gets my vote over flying, any time.

I wish I could have been with you…
We got the next best thing. Check out our vlog of the drive here:


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