The government hopes that by 2020, 20 per cent of passenger cars in South Korea will be solely electric. Subsidies and tax incentives to promote sales of electric vehicles will be offered once the vehicles begin rolling off production lines.
"Consumers' interest in and demand for user-friendly cars are rising, and securing such advanced technology is critical in becoming an industry leader," said Lee Hyun-soon, vice-chairman at Hyundai Motor's corporate research and development centre.
In other words, the South Korean government hopes the country will have 1 million pure electric cars by 2020 but IDTechEx and some other analysts project global figure consistent with a rather lower figure until we are more confident that cost and range impediments will be overcome. See: Hybrid And Pure Electric Cars 2010-2020and Read: Car Traction Batteries - the New Gold Rush 2010-2020.
Hyundai Motor, South Korea's largest motor company, has invested 40 billion won ($36.8m) in the past year developing this BlueOn electric car powered by a lithium-ion polymer battery, will expand output capacity next year to produce it, the company says in a written statement. Price of the car is not mentioned but this is more like a Mitsubishi iMiEV subcompact pure EV than the larger Nissan Leaf so price will need to be lower than that of the Leaf, something Mitsubishi has yet to offer.
The South Korean government is encouraging the development of mass produced electric-vehicles industry in the hope that production of small electric cars can begin in 2011 - two years earlier than originally planned - and medium-size electric cars in 2014.
"As major governments in the US, Japan, Germany and China are aggressively adopting plans to provide electric vehicles, we also recognised going to electric vehicles is not an option but a 'must' for the automobile industry," an official at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.
Hyundai Motor said it will produce 2500 BlueOn vehicles for the domestic market by the end of 2012. The BlueOn is based on Hyundai's i10, a small hatchback. The range may be poorer than the Leaf or iMiEV at 140 km or about 87 miles but top speed of 87 mph is rather high for this class of pure EV. Indeed it reaches 100 kph in an exceptional 13.1 seconds usine a 62kW (81 hp) motor. It is not designed to purpose: the car is an electric version of the i10 hatchback.
Modern battery but fast charge needed
SK Energy will be the initial supplier of lithium-ion batteries for the BlueOn, the car-maker said. One drawback already identified with the 16.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion batteries is the 6 to 7 hour recharge time and the relatively high cost of the unit, which is fixed in the car's engine. It has a lithium manganese oxide cathode, carbon anode and pouch construction. SK Energy has traction battery relationships with Daimler, Fuso and Mitsubishi as well. Fast charging is often achieved using lithium titanium oxide anodes i.e. "lithium titanate" batteries. The 12 foot long vehicle has an 82 horsepower motor.
Exchange battery concept
The government said it will conduct a feasibility study on whether a new type of battery system can be developed so an electric car comes with two batteries, one of which can be recharging while the other powers the vehicle. After all, intensively used forklifts have three sets of lead acid batteries - one in use, one cooling down and one charging. The government's study into so called exchange batteries will be carried out in the first half of 2011. If the study finds high enough demand for battery-exchangeable vehicles, it will assist in the development of the cars starting in 2012, the ministry said.
"To be a success in the market, electric cars should carry a reasonable price tag and most of all there should be recharging infrastructure for electric cars," the ministry official said.
Hyundai invested $34.3 million in the past year to develop BlueOn and will provide government agencies a test fleet of 30 cars to make improvements to the vehicle. The manufacturer plans to manufacture 2,500 by the end of 2012. The car will also be used in the G20 summit in Seoul in November.
Hyundai aims to expand its manufacturing capabilities for BlueOn next year, carrying out test productions and making about 2,500 units by the end of 2012. BlueOn, which is based on Hyundai's small hatchback, i10. In the West, Fiat has said that its part owned partner Chrysler will launch an electric version of its acclaimed Fiat 500 subcompact but further details have not been forthcoming.
Virtual sound and real telematics
BlueOn also features a virtual engine sound system, which creates an artificial sound for the safety of pedestrians, as electric vehicles make little to no sound when driving at low speeds. The engine-driven components were electrified so that the electric motor-driven power steering, electric water pump and regenerative brake system could be adapted to BlueOn. For the driver's convenience, an advanced telematics system showing the charge status and location of recharging stations is installed.
Also attend: Future of Electric Vehicles which uniquely covers the whole electric vehicle market - land, sea, air whether hybrid or pure EV - with emphasis on future breakthroughs.