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Model 3 to trigger `big bang’ of EVs in Korea

Tesla’s 1st mass model is forecast to spur market for EVs in cities

The unprecedented global attention to preorders of Model 3, the first mass-market model of luxury electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors, is forecast to spur the EV market in Korea.

About 198,000 customers globally, including Koreans, put down a deposit of $1,000 to preorder Model 3 in the first two days since Tesla unveiled its low-priced, but high-performance and well-designed electric family sedan in the U.S. on Thursday. 

The image of Tesla’s first mass-market model Model 3 Tesla Motors
The image of Tesla’s first mass-market model Model 3 Tesla Motors

The initial demand doubled the company’s expectation, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Friday.

“The international zeal reminds me of the debut of Apple’s first iPhone back in 2007. The event is symbolic in that it declared an era of popularization of EVs,’’ Kim Dae-hwan, who founded the International Electric Vehicle Expo in Jejudo Island, a global test bed for EVs, in 2014.

Kim is one of the Koreans who jumped joined the global preorder rush on the weekend.

“The Model 3 will intensify competition for EVs among global tech giants and automakers who have sought an upper hand in the new automotive segment. Korean policymakers and automakers need to move faster for creating a market for EVs not to lag behind the ensuing global trend,’’ Kim said.

Most Korean cities are not ready to transform into a haven for EVs like other countries such as Norway due to the lack of regulations and inadequate infrastructure.

Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s fifth largest automaker in sales, has stepped up its green car initiative by launching its dedicated green car models Ioniq and Niro early this year, but it is still heavily dependent on internal combustion engine-based cars.

“The entry of Model 3 to Korea -- scheduled for 2018 -- will be a real threat to Hyundai as the internationally hyped e-car offers twice better performance than Hyundai EVs at the similar price. Consumers who are considering buying a Hyundai EV can delay their purchase until the arrival of Model 3,’’ Kim Pil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University said.

The price of Model 3 is expected to fall in the range of 20 million won ($17,422) when the current level of government subsidies are applied.

Tesla’s new sedan can run up to 346 km on a single charge, while Hyundai’s Ioniq EV, which will debut here in the latter half of this year, has a claimed 180-kilometer range.

The global attention to Model 3 will also affect Korean battery-makers, including LG Chem and Samsung SDI.

“They are forecast to fasten their R&D plans to roll out advanced batteries for 300-kilometer range EVs next year,’’ the professor added.

Policymakers are also urged to create EV-friendly driving environment on the road to prepare for the “big bang’’ of EVs beyond the increase of charging stations and subsidies.

“It is critical for the government to offer different and stronger incentives like the use of bus-only roads to make EV owners feel safe and convenient while driving to raise the penetration of EVs at a fast pace,’’ the professor said.

By Seo Jee-yeon (