BUSINESS

Demand for ultra-compact EVs rises in Korea

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Aug 20, 2017 - 15:33
  • Updated : Aug 20, 2017 - 17:18

Renault Samsung Motor's Twizy ultra-compact EV (Renault Samsung Motor)

Amid the growing popularity of electric vehicles, ultra-compact EVs are emerging as a new form of transportation due to mobility on congested roads as well as their affordability, industry watchers said Sunday.

“Ultra-compact EVs have been mentioned as the next generation of mobility for drivers living in clustered cities for quite a while now. The latest trend that began in Europe has recently landed in Korea,” said Kwon Soon-wu, an analyst at SK Securities.

“However, due to legal constraints in Korea, it seems like ultra-compact vehicles will mostly be used for deliveries and short-distance rides for now.”

Leading the trend in Asia is China, with US-based auto giant General Motors having rolled out the Baojun E100 ultra-compact EV there for $5,300 earlier this month. The number of electric bikes and electric motorcycles totaled 280 million units in China last year, data compiled by the state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency showed. This means that 1 in 5 Chinese own an electrified compact vehicle.

KOTRA added that the increasing elderly population and bicycle commuters are boosting demand for single- and two-person electric transportation.

Although Korea is a late-comer to the trend, ultra-small EVs are quickly garnering popularity.

Preorders for 1,500 units of the Twizy ultra-compact EV made by Renault Samsung Motor, the South Korean unit of French carmaker Renault, sold out inside a month in May, according to the company.

The two-seater EV weighing 450 kilograms is 233.5 centimeters long, 123.3 centimeters wide and 145.1 centimeters tall.

The starting price of the Twizy is 15 million won ($13,200), but it can be purchased for as low as 4.2 million won with a subsidy of 5.7 million won from the Ministry of Environment and subsidies given by provincial governments.

On full-charge that takes about three and a half hours, Twizy can run for 60 kilometers at speeds of up to 80 kilometer per hour.

But Twizy and other low-speed EVs have been banned on expressways, following the National Police Agency’s refusal to categorize low-speed EVs as compact vehicles, a major setback for ultra-compact EV makers and owners for now.

Regarding the matter, a spokesperson from Renault Samsung said, “We are waiting for the government to release a new classification of vehicles in September.”

Semisysco, a local display maker, is also eyeing a piece of the expanding market.

The company’s ultra-compact EV, dubbed D2 will be offered at local retail store E-mart in Starfield Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, the company said.

Produced in China, the D2 is equipped with air conditioning and heating systems and has a driving distance of some 150 kilometers on a full charge.

The official launch of D2 is expected to be in either October or November after it passes government authorization.

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)