FUEL consumption is a perennial issue with Malaysians. We want our cars cheap, filled to the brim with features and big space and, of course, be fuel efficient.

Many of the cars that sell well in Malaysia boast excellent fuel consumption figures. The Myvi, for example, has a fuel efficiency of 20km/l or five litres per 100km.

While Malaysia is getting ready to welcome Proton’s first offering based on a Geely sport utility vehicle platform, big things are happening in China that may signal an interesting future for Malaysia’s car manufacturer, Proton.

One day, Proton may have access to new technologies that can bring fuel efficiency to record levels.

Last week, Geely Auto Group introduced a plug-in hybrid so efficient that it sips just 1.6 litres of petrol per 100km, and with 2,400 new energy engineers from around the world now on its payroll, it seems this is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be a lot more surprises in store from the manufacturer.

Geely’s senior vice-president of design Peter Horbury unveiled its flagship new energy sedan, the Bo Rui GE, at the 2018 Beijing International Auto Show.

Horbury said with the Bo Rui GE, Geely had created a flagship vehicle that embodied its ambitious aspirations and represented a new standard for new energy.

“China has emerged as the largest market in the global car industry, accounting for about 40 per cent of global sales with 30 million new cars each year.

“Chinese consumers have also become more sophisticated and mature than ever before. Working to satisfy the needs of this new generation of vehicle users has helped us to evolve into a confident global brand capable of developing segment leading cars that contains subtle hints of its Chinese origin,” said Horbury.

The Bo Rui GE is available in two variants. The first is a plug-in electric (PHEV) with a 1.5T + 7DCTH powertrain jointly developed by Volvo and Geely. It has a claimed fuel consumption of 1.6 litres per 100km. There is also a 48V “mild” hybrid version using the same 1.5T engine. This version has a fuel consumption rating of 5.8 litres per 100km.

At the same show, Geely Auto Group president and chief executive officer An Conghui said China would ultimately become the global centre of a new energy revolution that would reinvent the car and ultimately lead to a stronger and more resilient auto industry.

“As a leading Chinese automotive brand, we realise that competition in this new era will come in the form of a technology war and that we must lead through technological innovation.

“Geely realised this 12 years ago as we began our foray into the new energy sector by investing heavily in research and development, integrating our global resources and strengthening the strategic collaboration with Volvo.”

He added that Geely had employed about 2,500 people globally in new energy engineering to focus on the development of hybrid, pure electric, fuel cell and alternative fuel technologies.

This is part of Blue Geely Initiative, which was announced in late 2015, whereby the company aims to mass produce new energy vehicles by 2020.

The company aims for 90 per cent of its vehicle sales to consist of new energy vehicles, either pure electric (EV), PHEV or hybrid electric (HEV). The plan foresees new energy sales to be split into 65 per cent for PHEV and HEV, and the rest coming from EV, by 2020.

Where will Proton be in this new energy equation? With Malaysia’s new energy initiatives under the National Automotive Policy, there is a possibility that these cars will qualify for attractive incentives that may make them affordable here in Malaysia.

However, it is still unclear as to how they will be brought into Malaysia, as CKD models or otherwise.

Last year, the government put its foot down and required manufacturers to assemble their cars in Malaysia to continue benefiting from tax breaks for electric and hybrid cars.

However, with so much research and development going on at Geely, chances are it’s just a matter of time before these cutting edge new energy technologies will end up in your next Proton.

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