Home     Contact Us
General Information
Electric Vehicles in Asia Pacific
 Korea Home > Electric Vehicles in Asia Pacific > Korea

Electric Vehicle


Domestic auto-makers and research institutes have done research and development for high performance electric vehicles boom in electric vehicles in the early '90s. In particular, the national project for the development of electric vehicles prototypes has been supported by the government and core parts such as motors, inverters and batteries have been developed by parts manufacturers since December 1992.

Although SantaFe electric vehicles were demonstrated on Jeju island from 2003 to 2005, the commercialization of an electric vehicle has not yet been achieved but has been limited to electric golf carts and the electric cars for small company leisure.

International competition in the development of hybrid vehicles after the production discontinuation of the GM EV1 and the mass-production of the Toyota PRIUS in 1997 resulted in a reduction in domestic R&D of electric vehicles. However, as a result of the 2nd boom in electric vehicles from the U.S. again in 2007, the policy "Entering the four Great Green Car Powers by 2013" was established in October 2009 to encourage the development of electric vehicles and opened the door to greater commercialization.

< SantaFe electric vehicles >

The current domestic development of electric vehicles is proceeding in two major directions: low-speed and high-speed electric vehicles. Low speed electric vehicles, so called neighborhood electric vehicles(NEV), are for short distance driving with a maximum speed of 60 km/h, and 1,361 kg of curb weight. This was being sold by medium and small companies in the second half of 2009, but the sales were very poor because of concerns about the safety and high price. The Automotive Management Act certified low-speed electric vehicles from March 30, 2010, and the laws and regulations necessary to drive such as assigning driving zones, the design of road signs, and the safety standards of this type of vehicle were also completed.

< Driving zone sign >

< Do not drive zone sign >
In the case of the high-speed electric vehicle, the Hyundai BlueOn electric vehicle was developed in August 2010 and 250 cars were produced for public institutes. This model was announced as the main model of the demonstration project of government. The Kia SOUL electric vehicle is a model that applies the quick-drop type as a battery exchange method. It will be sold to the public in 2016.

< Domestic commercialized and sales planning electric vehicle >
Hyundai BlueOn



Renault-samsung SM3 ZE

Vehicle Size 3,585 mm x 1,595mm x 1,540 mm 3,720 mm x 1,630mm x 1,520 mm 3,595 mm x 1,595mm x 1,710 mm 4,750 mm x 1,820 mm x 1,460 mm 4,140 mm x 1,800 mm x 1,600 mm
Motor Power 50 kW 105 kW 50 kW 70 kW 81.4 kW
Maximum Torque 167 Nm 48.2 Nm 167 Nm 226 Nm 285 Nm
Driving Distance
per charge
140 km(City Mode) 140 km(City Mode),
128 km (Combined)
139.1 km (City Mode),
129.7 km (Combined)
182.6 km (City Mode),
176.2 km (Combined)
148 km(Combined)
Maximum Speed 130 km/h 145 km/h 135 km/h 134.9 km/h -
(0 → 100 km/h)
15.7 sec 8.1 sec 15.9 sec 11.5 sec -
Battery Capacity 16.4 kWh 18.3 kWh 16.4kWh 24 kWh 27 kWh
In December 2010, government announced a plan for improving the competitive power of electric vehicles by 2015 through the "Green Car Roadmap". The roadmap leads a project to develop a semi-medium sized electric vehicle to be commercialized in 2015. A total of 44 institutes including Hyundai Motor are participating in this project, and government is contributing over 70 billion KRW.

< Comparison of the performance target between BlueOn and semi-medium sized electric vehicle >
Performance BlueOn Semi-medium sized EV
Driving Distance per 1 Charge(km) 140 > 200
Normal/Fast Charging Time(hour/min) 6/25 < 5/23
Battery Capacity(kWh) 16.4 27
Maximum Speed(km/h) 130 145
< BlueOn electric vehicles >
On April 16th, 2012, government announced a plan to commercialize 2,500 electric vehicles by 2012 through the "Ceremony of Electric Vehicle Commercialization 2012" and confirmed the sales price, subsidy and funding for the infrastructure to support the operation of electric vehicles.

In terms of the sales price of the high speed and the light weight electric vehicles, Ray EV (Kia Motor Co.) was supported by a subsidy of $1,364 (1$=1,100KRW) and support for the charging infrastructure of $800. The sales price of the low speed electric vehicle was supported by a subsidy of $1,909 and support for a charging infrastructure of $525. In addition, a tax cut of up to $3,818 for costs such as individual consumption, acquisition, and education was provided.
< Electric vehicles for the dissemination project planned by government >
Category High-speed EV Low-speed EV Electric Bus
Maker Kia Renault AD Motors Hyundai Korea Fiber
Ray EV



(Ultra-low height

(Ultra-low height
Capacity 5 persons 5 persons 2 persons 51 persons 49 persons
130km/h 140km/h 60km/h 100km/h 100km/h
Distance per
1 Charge
135km 182km 77.9km 75km 69.8km
Battery Lithium-ion
( 16.4kWh )
( 24kWh )
( 9.2kWh )
( 95kWh )
( 85.8kWh )
45,000,000 n.a 21,000,000 n.a 490,000,000
15,000,000 n.a 5,780,000 n.a 100,000,000
The number of domestic electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure totaled 4,945 EVs and 277 charging stations, respectively, in 2015. Government has targeted 200,000 EVs and 1,4000 charging stations by 2020 through the distribution business for public institutions.
< Regional data of electric vehicles in 2015 >
Area Electric Vehicle Charging Station Charger
Seoul 1,107 38
Gyungnam 360 25 54
Jeonnam 262 27 67
Jeju 2,046 49 52
Other 1,170 138 125
Total 4,945 277 356
(Source electric vehicle charging information system)

In particular, the demonstration business for the charging infrastructure continues with the participation of a total of 48 companies in three consortiums: the Korea Electric Power Corporation, SK, and GS, organized by the construction business for Smart Transportation Demonstration Cluster for a total of 42 months from December 2009 until May 2013.
< Jeju Smart Grid Demonstration >
Consortium Electric Vehicle Charging Station Charger
KEPCO 18 18 52
SK 54 50 89
GS 10 18 45
Total 82 86 186
(Source KEPCO)

< Jeju Smart Grid Demonstration >
Korea Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) set up an electric vehicle charging tariff in June 2010 that can provide almost the same price as the prime cost of electricity to the charging provider and the charging provider gives the service to customers with a tariff subsidize the initial charger installation cost and operation fee. The price adapts the differential tariff per time zone and per season to move the charging load of daytime to overnight. In addition, the Korea Electric Power Co. developed various types of charging infrastructures like a home charger for an apartment or house, a multiple charger, a movable charger, and a portable charger. The introduction of a car sharing model for the first time in Korea from December 2011 will also lead to the commercialization of electric vehicles.
< Charging Wattage Fare for Electric Vehicle >
Category Basic Fare (won/kW) Wattage Fare (won/kWh)
Time Summer Spring/Fall Winter
Low-Voltage 2,130 Light 51.20 52.10 71.70
Medium 129.10 62.60 113.80
Maximum 206.50 67.90 169.50
High-Voltage 2,290 Light 46.60 47.50 62.10
Medium 98.40 57.10 89.70
Maximum 145.40 60.60 123.30
(Source KEPCO)


The biggest obstacle to the practical use of electric vehicles in the past was the short driving distance and the long charging time, but high vehicle price is currently the greatest problem. Nevertheless, it is expected that the number of electric vehicles will increase gradually over a period of a decade. Even if the market is not expected to increase dramatically within the next few years, the world's auto makers have continued to launch various electric vehicles since 2011 because of the rapid development of different types of infrastructure technologies such as the battery swapping method and the smart grid.

Development of the semi-medium electric vehicle and a low price electric vehicle will be carried out as a national project in Korea. It is expected that the stimulation of related industries due to the mass production of various high performance electric vehicles will start with the Kia Ray electric vehicle and the Renault-Samsung SM3 Z.E.

Hybrid Vehicles


Domestic hybrid vehicle technology started from the Hyundai FGV-1 in 1995 and continued with various conversion electric vehicles and prototypes, but this remained only R&D until 2005. However, the domestic market for hybrid vehicles was open after the end of the demonstration program of the Kia Pride HEV from 2005 to 2008 and sales of the Hyundai Avante HEV and Kia Forte HEV were made for the first time in Korea in July 2009. These two models adapted the same Liquid Propane Injection (LPI) hybrid system, lithium polymer battery, and mild type drive train. They also achieved the same fuel economy of 17.8 km/l (41.9 mpg).

The outcome of three government projects had a significant impact. The "Development of a new hybrid powertrain system and control technology" became the driving force of the technology development program, the "Development of a high power lithium secondary battery for hybrid vehicle" pushed development of the next generation battery program from September 2009, and the "Development of the technology for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles" prompted the strategy technology development program from 2007.

Hyundai Motor Co. began sales of the Sonata HEV which is a parallel full hybrid vehicle equipped with a 30 kW motor system. It was exported to the United States from the second half of 2010. Moreover, Hyundai Motor Co. began sales of the Grandeur HEV and IONIQ HEV from 2014 and 2016, respectively. Around 76,703 cars were sold in every month from April 2011 to 2013.
< Hyundai HEV >
Auto Maker Hyundai Motor Co. Hyundai Motor Co. Hyundai Motor Co. Hyundai Motor Co.
Model Sonanta PHEV Sanata HEV Grandeur HEV IONIQ HEV
Type Mid-size Sedan Mid-size Sedan Semi-Big-size Sedan Semi-Mid-size Sedan
Drivetrain Parallel Parallel Parallel Parallel
Fuel Economy(km/ァ、)
16.5 / 18.2 17.7 / 19.0 15.4 / 16.7 23.3 / 22.2
Engine Power(kW) 114.7 114.7 116.9 77.2
Motor Power(kW) 50 38 35 32
Sales Year '16 '16 '16 '16
< New Rexton HEV >
< Hybrid Vehicle Sales Statistics of Domestic and Export in Korea ('05.1-'13.12) >
Category 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
1-12 1-12 1-12 1-12 1-12 1-12 1-12 1-5 1-12
Domestic Kia Pride 121 145 355 360          
Hyundai Avante         5,069 4,133 2,105 591 582
Kia Forte         1,162 2,053 1,542 1,005 287
Hyundai Sonata             7,241 4,847 13,398
Kia K5             5,279 2,970 7,742
KoreaGM Alpheon               557 203
Total 121 145 355 360 6,231 6,186 14,062 9,970 22,212
Export Hyundai Sonata           85 15,191 8,643 29,032
Kia K5               4,730 19,022
Total           85 15,191 13,373 48,054
(Source KAMA)

The policy of tax exemption for hybrid vehicle penetration includes the support of the individual consumption tax up to $909, an educational tax up to $272, an acquisition tax up to $1,272 and a purchase exemption for urban railway bonds of up to $1,818.


Although the sales forecast of hybrid vehicles varies according to various institutes, about 80,000 monthly average sales of hybrid vehicles have been recorded internationally since July 2009. The OTT Program Analysis Methodology, published in 2003, forecasts that the overall market share of hybrid cars, including plug-ins, is expected to reach 18% in 2010, 43% in 2020 and 55% in 2030. Not only did sales of hybrid vehicles gradually increase a few years ago but the Hyundai Sonata HEV won 2nd place in the U.S. market in 2011 among the 38 hybrid vehicles, and Hyundai motor Co. won 2nd place in the U.S. market share of hybrid cars in 2015, which show the possibilities. For the survival of the domestic auto industry, which is highly dependent on exports, more aggressive R&D efforts by automakers and part manufacturers for electric and hybrid vehicles are needed as well as continuing policies of government support.

(Standardization and the Government Policy)

The Korean Agency for Technology and Standards is in charge of the standardization of electric vehicles and the agencies in three fields: Vehicle Systems, the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA); the Battery R&D Association of Korea; and the Charging System, Korea Smart Grid Association (KSGA), are doing research to harmonize with international standards such as International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The Korean Society of Automotive Engineers (KSAE) has enacted two harmonized standards with SAE and the KSGA has also enacted two standards.

Fuel Cell Vehicle

(Development History of FCEV)

Fuel-Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) development in Korea started with the national G7 project in 1998 (Next-Generation Vehicle Development). Through this project, Hyundai Motor Company (HMC) and Kia Motors developed 10 kW and 25 kW class Fuel-Cell stacks in 1999 and 2001, respectively, and then introduced Fuel-Cell (FC) Hybrid Electric Vehicles based on a SUV, the Sportage and the SantaFe. HMC and Kia Motors developed their own leading-edge technologies through collaboration on the essential components technology with Korean research institutes, and with international partnerships like the U.S. International Fuel Cells (IFC, currently UTCFC), which enabled the SantaFe FCEV to be installed with 75 kW FC stacks in 2002. In addition, the Korea Research Institute of Energy developed FCEV for a short distance in 2004, and HMC and Kia-Motors developed the Tucson FCEV with improved cold-starting capability in 2004 as well as the new Sportage FCEV in 2005. In addition, HMC and Kia Motors developed low-floored heavy duty vehicles called the FC-BUS Ⅰ and FC-BUS Ⅱ in 2006 and 2009, respectively. A conceptual FCEV named I-Blue and the Mohave FCEV were also introduced in 2007. Furthermore, a third generation Tucson-IX FCEV was installed with hydrogen storage systems whose compression pressure was enforced more than twice of what had been developed in 2010. A next generation Tuscan-IX FCEV in 2015 was deveopled for the mass production. In addition, Daewoo Motors developed the Rezzo DFCV-Ⅰ(Daewoo Fuel-Cell Vehicle) in collaboration with the Korea Research Institute of Energy in 2000. After being merged by GM, the conceptual FCEV, Autonomy, Hy-Wire, Hydrogen3, Sequel, and Equinox were introduced consecutively. For reference, the FCEVs developed in Korea are summarized in TABLE I.

< FCEV >
TABLE I. FCEV development trends in Korea
  2000 2002 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008~09 2010~12 2015
  Santafe FCEV
Tucson FCEV
  FC-Bus Ⅰ
FC-Bus Ⅱ
Autonomy Hy-Wire
Equinox FCEV
ECO Car   Short-range
(Development Status and Current Trends in FC and FCEV)

The fuel-cell converts chemical energy to electrical energy using the principle of electrochemical oxidation. In terms of the electrochemical reaction of the oxidation-reduction as an energy storage system, it is similar to batteries, but capable of generating electricity continuously without external charging only if sufficient fuel is provided. It is E-zone FC-HEVclassified according to the type of FC electrolytes into five representative types of FC, of which the characteristics are summarized and compared in TABLE II.
TABLE II. FC characteristics classified by electrolytes
  Phosphoric Acid Molten Carbonate Alkali Solid Polymeric Solid Oxide Ni(YSZ)
Electrolytes H3PO4 Li2CO3/K2CO3 KOH Proton
Electrode Graphite+Pt NiO/Ni(Cr) Pt or Ni Graphite +Pt LSM(YSZ)
200℃ 650℃ 20-100℃ 20-80℃ 800-1000℃
H+ CO3-2 OH- H+ O-2
Fuel H2 H2, CO H2 H2 H2, CO CH4,
Efficiency 40-50% 45-55% 45-55% 40-50% 45-55%
Application Distributed
Portable Power,
The most prominent types of FC for FCEV will be Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC), which have the advantage of operating at a relatively lower temperature around 80℃ and are likely to be the one first commercialized in the near future. Nevertheless, the PEMFC utilizes highly pressurized hydrogen or a hydrogen absorbing alloy where it has its own drawbacks such as the type of pressurized hydrogen, which has limited mileage per fueling mainly due to the lack of hydrogen storage capacity per volume, and this type of hydrogen absorption alloy requires an excessive amount of time to supply fuel. In addition, a lack of hydrogen gas charging infrastructure on the road is a critical impediment to FCs as an alternative to conventional fossil fuels. Unfortunately, it is a challenge that will not be resolved in the short term. Accordingly, there has been another trend to make use of conventional fossil fuel (gasoline or diesel) as a FCEV fuel instead of pure hydrogen gas, on account of the well-organized infrastructure. As a result, global automobile makers are investigating Solid-Oxide FC as the next generation candidate after PEMFC, which uses currently generalized hydrocarbon fuels like gasoline and diesel.

Korea's domestic hydrogen fuel cell development remains ongoing so that the Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors have created their own technologies and accomplishments. However, it is understood that nationwide commercialization has a long way to go. Nevertheless, government in the Korean Government has already begun to establish and provide the institutional arrangements and strategies aiming at FCEV commercialization by 2015.

In addition, the SUV-class FCEV, Tucson-ix, mounted with a 100 kW FC-Stack and a 700 bar hydrogen tank was introduced in 2010 by HMC and reached a top speed of more than 160 km and covered a range of 650 km. The Tucson-ix also has a strong point in terms of the assembly and maintenance process through system modularity, which will lead to the probable production of 2,000 units for the upcoming years by 2015.

(Future Prospects and Development Challenges for FCEV)

FCEVs have been purposely developed and produced usually for prior-distribution to government departments for on-road demonstration and evaluation. HMC and Kia Motors will move strategically to enable the local production of FC stacks by 2015, replace the mostly imported ones, which leads to start the massive production of mid-size FCEV by 2015 and FC-Bus by 2018, and distribute to hundreds of thousands of FCEVs until 2020. By then, it is anticipated that Korean automobile makers will be equipped with the manufacturing capacity to produce more than 200,000 FCEVs, occupying 13.3% of the global market share. Since then, they will aggressively enter into a full-scale business in the domestic and overseas markets through the massive production of FCEV. Since it is not easy to cut down the manufacturing costs in the short-term, it is thought that FCEV commercialization may be possible after 2020. Around 2030, it is likely that either EV or FCEV vehicles will dominate the industry.

However, many development tasks remain to be done for the full-scale commercialization of FCEV. In particular, FCEV is regarded as the most expensive option among the developed green cars, where FC stacks, batteries, and electric-powertrain (Motors and Inverters) call for an extremely high cost. For a more promising market share, the high-cost components must be rationalized to improve the battery performance as well as to expand the charging infrastructure substantially on roads. In addition, not only the technical development support, but the institutional and strategic policy must be provided to invigorate the FCEV business in the Korean automobile market. Furthermore, international collaborative research and standardization, human resource training, and R&D facilities must continue to be developed to achieve a sustainable FCEV industry in Korea.

(Standardization and the Government Policy)

Most FCEV in Korea has been developed to utilize hydrogen fuel-cells. This mandates the standardization of FCEV powered by hydrogen gas. Globally, the Sub Group Safety committee of the International FCEV Development Organization (SGS) and the Global Technical Regulation (GTR) have been responsible for the technical regulation of hydrogen FCEV including hydrogen storage facilities, hydrogen supply infrastructure, and electrical safety. Korea also joined these organizations and registered the domestic FCEV regulations in the Korean Standards Service Network in 2012. This regulates the terminology, Fuel-Cell Modules, safety specifications of portable fuel-cells, and safety requirements of FCEV in detail. For reference, the Korean Standards (KS) issued on hydrogen FCEV.

The Korean government has formulated activating policies for FCEV such as subsidies and grants, tax incentives, infrastructure expansion and institutional modification for the purpose of creating an intial FCEV market. The government has plans to establish a public subsidies standard for FCEV by 2014, and to consider tax benefits for the purchase of HEV applied for already from 2012. In this case, tax exemptions are expected up to 3.1 million KRW, which includes the individual consumption tax and the education tax (1.3 million KRW), the acquisition tax and the registration tax (1.4 million KRW) and the bonds-purchase (2 million KRW), and other charges.

Furthermore, the government plans to install 168 hydrogen supplying stations by 2020 and support subsidized loans for charging station construction. In addition, reductions of the parking fees on public parking lots and a congestion tolls tax for urban centers, installation of exclusive Green-Car parking places and charging station installation in downtown areas, tariff system establishment for the spread EV, and raising the ratio of obligation purchase and sales are current policies under consideration.

Japan Automobile Research Institute(JARI)
1-1-30, Shibadaimon, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0012
Phone: +81 3 5733 7927  Fax: +81 3 5473 0655  mtakahas@jari.or.jp