Kia, Renault and GM Battle to Introduce First Electric Cars on Road


Credit: Chu / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Korean government’s announcement to support electric vehicles has sparked a stiff competition to launch home-grown zero-emission cars between Hyundai Motor Group and Renault Samsung. These two companies have promised to start the country’s first mass-produced electric cars in 2013.

Kia Motor Group, an affiliate of Hyundai, assures a new version of electric car Ray in January. The company will produce a total of 2500 units in 2012. However, it will instigate the mass production of electric cars for the public in 2013.

Following the same strategy, the Korean unit of French carmaker Samsung is planning to introduce its mid-sized SM3 sedan.
One big benefit to SM3 ZE drivers is that their batteries can be easily exchanged at a swap station in less than 90 seconds, while Kia’s Ray will require drivers to recharge their lithium-ion battery that is only possible by visiting one of the charging station available across 500 units.

According to the analyst reports, there is no stable leader in the domestic market, and their electric cars’ success is doubtful.

Ahn Se-hwan, an analyst at IBK Securities, said: “Nobody will be buying the SM3 ZE or Ray EV if their pricing stays at the level widely predicted now. I’d say less than 5 per cent of drivers here would be on electric cars even in 2025.”

On 22nd December 2011, the government made a formal announcement that those interested in buying Ray EV or SM3 ZE will get a tax credit of up to 4.2 million won (S$4,716) when these cars were launched in 2013. Other tax incentives incorporate exemptions on acquisition tax and special consumption tax.

The pricing of cars are not fixed, but the SM3 ZE is speculated to top 65 million won, while the Ray EV will be available at around 47 million won. Many gas stations that provide electric to fuel-cell required more stable support by the government.

Executives at GM and Renault Samsung said that if infrastructural support is provided in accordance with a plan, then Korea will be able to adopt all-electric vehicles.

Michael Bly, GM’s chief of global electrical systems, said: “GM tested the capability of Chevrolet’s all-electric EN-V concept car in Korea one year ago in collaboration with the Seoul city government and the feedback was very favourable; fitting right into the urban lifestyle and driving conditions.”

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy will spend about 70 billion won ($65 million) on electric-vehicles development by 2014. Also, the money will be spent on the building of electric charging stations.

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