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Seoul, Yeonggwang, Jeju get electric vehicle support

The Ministry of Environment on Tuesday designated Seoul, Jeju and Yeonggwang in South Jeolla Province as “leading cities” in promoting the use of electric vehicles across the country.

Local authorities will provide residents with 168 electric vehicles and 251 recharging facilities. Korea plans to put more than 1 million electric cars in use by 2020.

In Seoul, where electric buses already operate around the Mount Nam area in the city’s central area, will encourage taxi owners to buy electric vehicles and subsidize partial fares. The city administration will also support local citizens to hold “car-sharing” activities to campaign its usage.

In Yeonggwang, where agricultural industries is still a staple source of income, the low-speed vehicles are expected to aid senior farmers to mobilize and transport their items within their farms and yards. Local officials will also use them to look after elderly populations since the vehicles are known to create less vibration and shocks.

Yeonggwang authorities are planning to adopt a total of 2,100 vehicles of this kind by 2014.

Jeju, a global tourism destination, will adopt electric vehicles for a rent-a-car system in the province. Currently there are 12,000 rental cars operating in the region and the promotional effect of adopting electric and environment-friendly cars will be massive, the authorities said.

“Korea is the second country in the world to adopt electric vehicles pushed by the state. We will seek partnerships with more cities and regional governments,” Park Gwang-seok, a ministry official, said.

However, there are several setbacks the authorities will have to tackle: the average price of a vehicle is around 50 million won ($44,600) and the recharging of batteries takes more than eight hours, which can only guarantee operation of 144 kilometers a session.

“Yes, there are several issues. But since an electric vehicle is an environment friendly device economizing an average of 1.3 million won of fuel fee a year, it is quite evident that the vehicle will one day replace the fossil-fueled cars,” another ministry official said.

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