In 2010 the South Korean government unveiled a plan to produce 1.2 million electric vehicles a year by 2015, or 21 percent of the domestic automobile market, and a nationwide goal of one million registered electric vehicles by 2020.
The South Korean government’s Ministry of Environment is providing a 15 million won ($13,900) nationwide subsidy for EV purchases, and 10 major cities or provincial jurisdictions are providing additional subsidies ranging from 3 million to 8 million won ($2,800 to $7,400).
The semitropical island of Jeju, which is located about 60 miles (100 km) south of the Korean peninsula in Korea’s East Sea, Plans for all cars to be electric by 2030.
The Jeju government adds a hefty 8 million won subsidy to the federal incentive for EVs purchased on the island. The combined price abatement of 23 million won ($21,000) nearly halves the EV’s purchase price in some instances, dramatically reduces it in all others and makes the Chevrolet Spark EV less than the cost of a gasoline-powered Spark.
While the federal subsidy is open-ended and applies nationally, there is a limit to the number of subsidies Jeju will grant. For 2014 Jeju has a cap of 500 subsidies, but officials say they are swamped with thousands of applications.
Jeju is a natural fit for EVs because it has been a smart grid test bed for years, which included building public charging infrastructure. Also, Jeju is a relatively small, oval-shaped island (about 70 km by 30 km), so drivers can easily get around the island on a single battery charge.
There are currently only about 360 electric vehicles amongst the population of about 607 000, a figure that the province wants to expand to more than 500 this year. The provincial government expects about 370 000 total cars on the road in Jeju by 2030 compared to about 300,000 today.
This will be achieved in steps, with the initial subsidy phase adding 500 new EVs this year, then more subsidies to boost the number to 29,000 by 2017 and to 94,000 by 2020. The island has 500 easily accessible 240V recharge stations, said to be the highest density anywhere in the world. More stations are being added every month.
South Korean buyers, who buy almost exclusively cars made in the country, have several Korean-made electric cars from which to choose. The current sales champion on Jeju is the Samsung SM3, which is a clone of the Renault Fluence ZE sedan.
Kia's Ray EV, Samsung/Renault's SM3 EV and General Motors Spark EV got off to a modest sales start in 2013. Nissan will begin selling the Leaf in South Korea in the second half of this year along with BMW's i3 and Kia's Soul EV. Hyundai plan to launch their first battery-powered electric car in 2016.
South Korea has installed 1,510 charging stations for electric cars across the country, including 110 quick charge stations. As of June 2013, a total of 1,146 electric cars were used in the country, mostly by government agencies and public corporations.