Hyundai Motor, Korea's largest automaker, unveiled the country's first full-speed electric car at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. But consumers will have to wait a few years before they can get their hands on the vehicle, called the BlueOn.
◆ 140 km on Single Charge
Hyundai spent some W30.6 billion (US$1=W1,170) over the past year to develop the car, with the government pitching in W9.4 billion. Based on Hyundai's existing i10 subcompact model, which is sold in India and Europe, the BlueOn's prototype, called the i10 Electric, was showcased at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September last year.
Similar in size to the Kia Morning and GM Daewoo Matiz, the BlueOn has a maximum speed of 130 km/h and can go from zero to 100 km/h in just 13 seconds. It can travel 140 km on a single charge, which is comparable to electric vehicles being sold overseas.
Hyundai joined hands with 114 small and mid-sized manufacturers to produce 11 key components, and some 90 percent of the car's parts were developed and manufactured in Korea. The automaker aims to produce all of the car's components in Korea by the end of this year.
The BlueOn represents the Lee Myung-bak administration's first step to getting more drivers behind the wheel of domestic electric vehicles. GM Daewoo has no plan to produce GM's Volt electric car in Korea, and Renault Samsung's plans don't fit the government's aim of developing the electric car industry into a new growth engine for the Korean automotive industry.
Hyundai plans to supply 30 of the electric cars to government offices, including the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Ministry of Environment, for a trial run. Those vehicles will also be used as official cars during the G20 Summit in Seoul in November and the World Championships in Athletics in Daegu next year.
◆ Roll-Out Plans
Mitsubishi's i-MiEV hit showrooms in April, and the Nissan Leaf and GM Volt will be available for commercial sales by the end of this year, but the BlueOn has still a long way to go. Hyundai has not yet determined when it will be able to mass-produce the car, so customers may have to wait until 2013 to get one.
"The BlueOn costs some W60 million just to manufacture, which is more expensive than a large sedan," an official at Hyundai's electric car division said. The company needs time to develop the technologies necessary to bring down costs. "It will also take time to build facilities like recharging stations, and more work needs to be done to boost the efficiency of power usage in case a large number of vehicles need to be recharged at once."
Hyundai aims to supply 2,500 of the vehicles to government agencies by 2012. The government's goal is to replace 10 percent of compacts and 20 percent of all passenger cars in Korea with electric cars by 2020.