Thursday, 23 August 2012

South Korea accelerates EV plans

EV Update reports: South Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy has broght forward its plan to produce mid-size, all-electric vehicles from 2017 to 2014.

The ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with a consortium led by the country's leading automaker Hyundai Motor to develop the country's first mid-size electric vehicle for commercial use by 2014, in an attempt to secure a dominant position in the global market. The government plans to invest $65 million in the project, including building electric charging stations, an extension to an earlier grand plan of investing $342.6 million by 2014 on research and development for high-performance batteries and other related systems. The Hyundai consortium also includes GM Korea, the South Korean unit of US automaker General Motors, and Renault Samsung Motors, the South Korean unit of French automaker Renault.

Hyundai Motor developed the country's first compact electric vehicle, the BlueOn. It produced about 250 units in 2011 for public offices mostly. It plans to introduce an Elantra-sized compact electric car from 2014.

Kia Motors, Hyundai’s sister company, also aims to introduce an electric version of its Ray mini car in 2013, depending on Korea’s progress in building charging stations for electric vehicles.
GM Korea will produce the electric version of Chevrolet Spark mini car in 2013 for export to the US but has no plans to sell it in the domestic market. Renault Samsung Motors will supply its Fluence ZE electric car early next year to government organisations but has no plans to sell it at dealerships for now.

A lack of charging infrastructure is a major hurdle for the wide adoption of EV. There are many players in the charging infrastructure sector include KEPCO, Hyundai Motors, LS Industrial Systems, LS Cable, Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Electro Mechanics, SK Energy, GS Caltex, Samsung C&T and telecom companies like KT, SK Telecom, and LG U+.

Infrastructure problems are a common issue for all electric carmakers in Korea. Currently there are around 1,800 slow/fast charging stations in Korea and most of them are used for Hyundai and Kia electric vehicles used by the Korean government.

The government plans to increase that figure to 3,100 stations by the end of 2012 and 150,000 charging stations across the country by 2016 to help boost sales of EVs.

Meanwhile, cientists from South Korea’s Ulsan Institute of Science and Technology are garnering attention for a new lithium-ion battery, which can allegedly charge up to 120 times faster than a normal lithium-ion battery. The researchers are currently planning a battery pack for EVs, which could be fully charged in less than a minute. The system relies on the use of Lithium manganese oxide as the cathode material. This is then soaked in a solution with graphite, which is then carbonised to create a network of conductive ways that run through the cathode.