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Korea gears up to develop ultrasmall electric cars

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Sunday that the government is making utmost efforts to develop extremely small electric cars and tricycles to cope with various changes in the urban landscape.

The “micro-mobility” project aims at developing ultrasmall electric cars and tricycles as well as the infrastructure to create a more enabling environment. A total of 28 billion won ($25.1 million) from the central government and another 12 billion from regional administrations have been chipped into the project that is expected to wrap up by 2017.

As a start, a micro compact electric vehicle will be developed, with its initial design already registered with the authorities. “Our goal is to develop a micro-mobility vehicle that runs under 60 km/h speed, which requires simpler technology compared to ordinary EVs. We expect that passing the safety test would be therefore much easier,” said Park Yong-jin, a ministry official. 

Design of micro-mobility vehicles developed by the Industry ministry-funded research team. (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy)
Design of micro-mobility vehicles developed by the Industry ministry-funded research team. (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy)

The government also spared 5 billion won to develop electric tricycles earlier this year, scheduled to launch by 2017.

The ministry explained that micro-mobility is cheap ― the cars are less than 10 million ― and apt for short-distance mobilization. It is also optimal for small-volume production with a wider range of models. “Disabled, old and others people in need of specialized cars will benefit from the production,” the ministry stated.

The vehicles also require 1-3.5 hours for battery charging, lower that the average EV’s 8 hours duration, which is time-efficient, the government said. The development of micro-mobility is already ripe in Europe and Japan. Global giants such as Toyota and Renault have already pushed ahead in the market. Renault recently signed a deal with Seoul Metropolitan Government and fried chicken maker BBQ to use its compact EV Twizzy as delivery vehicles in the capital city. The operation will also serve as a feasibility test for micro-mobility in Korea.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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