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Korea Unveils 1st Electric-powered Car BlueOn

Posted September. 10, 2010 11:51,   


Korea’s first high-speed electric car for mass production BlueOn was unveiled Thursday, the result of a project by Hyundai Motor and 43 domestic automotive parts makers.

The BlueOn can accelerate to 130 kilometers (80 miles) per hour in 13.1 seconds and run up to 140 kilometers (87 miles) on a single charge.

The vehicle is the world’s second commercial electric car after the i-MiEV of Japan’s Mitsubishi, but the BlueOn has superior performance in cruising range, recharging time and motor capacity.

○ First in performance

The unveiling ceremony for the BlueOn was held at the presidential office with President Lee Myung-bak and Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Kyung-hwan attending. The electric vehicle looked similar to the Hyundai compact car i10.

Korea and Japan are the only two nations to have produced electric cars for mass production.

Both the BlueOn and i-MiEV use 16.4 kilowatt-hour batteries. The Korean car’s motor capacity is 61 kilowatts, higher than the Japanese car’s 47 kilowatts.

The BlueOn can thus go from zero to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour in 13.1 seconds, 3.2 seconds faster than the i-MiEV (16.3 seconds), and cover 140 kilometers (87 miles) on a single charge, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) more than the i-MiEV.

The battery recharging time of the BlueOn is also shorter than that of the i-MiEV. Slow charging takes six hours for the BlueOn and seven hours for the i-MiEV, and fast charging takes 25 minutes for the former and 30 minutes for the latter.

○ Collaboration between Hyundai and small and mid-size companies

In October last year, the government devised a plan to promote electric cars with the aim to mass produce them by next year. It has raised 22 billion won (18.9 million U.S. dollars) to develop the the BlueOn, with half of the funds coming from the private sector.

The Knowledge Economy Ministry said, “The development of the BlueOn was a collaboration among Hyundai Motor, nine car parts companies, and 34 small and mid-size businesses,” adding, “Ninety percent of its core components are made in Korea.”

The technology used for the BlueOn will be utilized to develop mid-size electric vehicles and advance the schedule for their mass production from 2017 to 2014.

Cho Seok, a ministry official in charge of growth engines, said, “The government plans to increase the driving range of electric vehicles to 300 kilometers (186 miles) and reduce the price of batteries 80 percent by 2020.”

○ Two or three more years before commercial use

The BlueOn will be mass produced next year for state-run organizations. If they purchase the electric car, the government will pay half of the price gap between the BlueOn and a gas-powered car up to 20 million won (17,152 dollars).

Two or three more years are needed before the car goes on the commercial market, however. With limited production, the BlueOn will be more expensive than a gas-powered car in the same class by up to 40 million won (34,300 dollars).

Yet the electric car is much more competitive in maintenance than those running on gasoline. While a gas-powered car needs 130,000 won (111 dollars) a month for fuel, the electric car requires 18,000 won (15 dollars) a month for charging.

After driving the BlueOn, President Lee said, “I hope Korea leads the world electric car market,” adding, “The development of all successful products began when everybody said it was premature to develop, and those waiting for the next chance lagged behind.”

“A time considered premature is the most appropriate time,” he said. “The development of the BlueOn holds more significance since it is the outcome of collaboration between large and small and mid-size companies.”

Production of one million electric vehicles is scheduled. The plan is for electric cars to occupy 10 percent of the domestic compact car market by 2015 and 20 percent of the passenger car market by 2020.

imsun@donga.com srkim@donga.com