SEOUL: South Korea will begin mass production of electric vehicles next year, ahead of its earlier schedule, and provide financial support for government use to promote sales of emission-less vehicles, Yonhap news agency said Thursday.
The move comes as the country's top automaker, Hyundai Motor Co., together with its 43 suppliers and partner companies, completed the development of a compact electric vehicle, the BlueOn, two years ahead of their schedule.
The BlueOn is the world's second electric vehicle designed for mass production, following the i-MiEV of Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors Corp., according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
President Lee Myung-bak test drives the BlueOn in the compound of the presidential house in Seoul today. - AP
The BlueOn, however, outperforms its Japanese rival in nearly all aspects as it can travel up to 140km after each recharge that takes six hours, compared to 130km for the i-MiEV, which takes seven hours to recharge.
Along with the development of the compact vehicle, the government believes the country will also be able to complete the development of a midsize electric vehicle for the start of mass production in 2014, three years ahead of an earlier schedule, the ministry said in a press release.
To promote the sales and use of electric vehicles, the government will shoulder up to 50% of additional costs for government offices to purchase electric vehicles instead of conventional vehicles that use fuels.
It will also work to increase the proportion of electric vehicles to 10% of annual sales of compact sedans in 2015 and 20 percent of all passenger car sales in 2020, by when it will also install 2.2 million battery rechargers throughout the nation, the ministry said.
"Given that electric vehicles are not a choice but a must for the automobile industry and that the governments of key industrialised nations, such as Japan, Germany and China, are taking aggressive steps to develop and promote electric vehicles, we need much more aggressive government measures" to promote the use and development of electric vehicles, the ministry said.