S. Korea speeds up plans for autonomous, electric and flying cars

A Nexo hydrogen car from Hyundai being refuelled in Seoul. South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said the country's firms will invest $69 billion over the next decade in the future of transportation.
A Nexo hydrogen car from Hyundai being refuelled in Seoul. South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said the country's firms will invest $69 billion over the next decade in the future of transportation.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL • South Korea yesterday unveiled plans to speed up the adoption of electric cars, self-driving vehicles and even flying automobiles in the coming years to help revive a sagging economy.

President Moon Jae-in said in a speech that Korean firms will invest 60 trillion won (S$69 billion) over the next decade in the future of transportation.

The government will spend 2.2 trillion won to help develop related technology and lay the groundwork for the infrastructure needed for things such as robocars, he said.

Commercialisation of fully autonomous vehicles will occur by 2027, or three years earlier than planned, he said.

President Moon is betting that the investments will create jobs and spur an export-dependent economy that has been among the hardest hit from global trade tensions, with the Bank of Korea warning as recently as this month that it will be difficult to achieve 2.2 per cent growth this year.

Mr Moon also predicted that electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles will account for 33 per cent of automobiles sold in 2030, from about 2.6 per cent this year.

By comparison, China has said it is targeting all-electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles to account for 40 per cent of all sales by 2030, a person familiar with the matter has said.

To promote sales of these vehicles, the South Korean government will consider extending subsidies to buyers and slashing hydrogen prices in half by 2030 from current levels, according to a joint statement by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy and other ministries yesterday.

The government will also encourage operators of buses and trucks to switch to electric and hydrogen vehicles.

It will increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations to 15,000 locations by 2030 from the current 5,427, while the number of hydrogen refuelling spots will rise to 660 from 31, according to the statement.

For autonomous driving, the government plans to set up regulations by 2024 so robocars will be able to operate on local roads - with varying degrees of driver supervision.

South Korea also plans to set up a route system and safety rules by 2023 to start services of personal air vehicles from 2025, it said.

In line with the government's plan, Hyundai Motor Group has said it plans to invest 41 trillion won by 2025 in autonomous vehicles, with some cars being rolled out as soon as 2021. It also plans to have a line-up of 23 electric vehicles by 2025.

Hyundai last month agreed on an autonomous-driving joint venture with Aptiv to develop technology needed to put robotaxis on the road by 2022.

It has also set up a new urban air mobility division to come up with smart products within the aviation industry.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2019, with the headline 'S. Korea speeds up plans for autonomous, electric and flying cars'. Print Edition | Subscribe