President Lee Myung-bak examines a prototype electric car at the research and development center of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. Earlier, Lee hosted an emergency meeting on economic policies with policymakers and business leaders. / Korea Times
By Kim Hyun-cheol
South Korea will start churning out electric automobiles from 2011 and aim to take up 10 percent of the global market in 2015, with the ultimate goal to become one of the world's top four producers of the eco-friendly cars, government officials said Thursday.
Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Kyung-hwan presented the plan, which advanced the target time of mass production by two years, at an economic policymakers' meeting presided over by President Lee Myung-bak.
Looking to adhere to the country's low-carbon and green growth agenda, the government also plans to replace more than 10 percent of smaller sedans in the domestic market with electric vehicles by 2020.
By moving quickly to adjust to the environmental standards in the global car market, Korea will be able to snatch an advanced position in the rapidly emerging market for alternative fuel cars, the ministry said.
A roadmap for battery development will be the first agenda point. A total of 30 core parts for electric cars will be selected to be under government support by the end of the year, and a batch of 50 car parts makers will also be subject to the program in the long term, the ministry said.
Earlier this year, the Korean government announced that it will spend some 400 billion won ($342.6 million) until 2014 on research and development (R&D) to create high-performance batteries and their related systems needed to make electric cars.
A joint organization of makers, institutes and government bodies will be formed as well to outline comprehensive strategies for electric cars within the first half of next year.
Safety standards for electric cars will be established, while those for low-speed models are scheduled to be revised later this year.
Starting from the second half of 2011, public offices will receive subsidies up to 20 million won per vehicle when buying electric cars. Tax incentives for customers will be also considered from the period, the ministry said.
Also, for better promotion, electric cars will be part of the official vehicles for the upcoming G20 Summit scheduled for December 2011 in Korea.
The exact size of state funds for the plan, however, has not been decided yet.
About the overall programs, the ministry made it clear supports for alternative vehicles are not confined to electric cars.
"The bottom line is that the government supports R&D activities of companies, opening for all possibilities," Deputy Knowledge Economy Minister Cho Seok said. "When there can't be fixed predictions for the future, it is necessary to develop all kinds of technology available parallelly."
Most industrialized countries are putting all their efforts into developing electric cars. Starting with the i-MiEV by Japanese maker Mitsubishi, which will start individual sales early next year, the United States and China are also looking to unveil their own models as early as next year.
Government supports are in line with makers. The Japanese, Chinese and U.S. governments all offer subsidies for their purchases, with tax incentives in Japan as well, and are pressing ahead with projects for related development projects.