South Korea speeds up plans for autonomous, electric and flying cars

In a photo taken on Aug 13, a Hyundai Nexo hydrogen car is fuelled at a hydrogen station in Seoul.
In a photo taken on Aug 13, a Hyundai Nexo hydrogen car is fuelled at a hydrogen station in Seoul.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) - South Korea 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 on Tuesday (Oct 15) South Korean companies will invest 60 trillion won (S$82 billion) over the next decade into the future of transportation.

The government will spend 2.2 trillion won to help develop related technology and help 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.

Mr Moon is betting that the investments will create jobs and spur an export-dependent economy that's been among the hardest hit from global trade tensions, with the central 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-fueled vehicles will account for 33 per cent of vehicles sold in 2030, compared with about 2.6 per cent in 2019. By comparison, China has said it is targeting all-electric cars, plugin hybrids and fuel-celled 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 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 on Tuesday.

The government will also encourage operators of buses and trucks to switch to electric and hydrogen vehicles. It will increase the number of EV charging stations to 15,000 locations by 2030 from the current 5,427, while hydrogen refuelling spots will increase 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 plans to invest 41 trillion won by 2025 in autonomous vehicles, with some cars being rolled out as soon as 2021. It's also planning to have a line-up of 23 EVs by 2025.

Hyundai last month agreed on an autonomous-driving joint-venture with Aptiv Plc to develop technology needed to put robotaxis on the road by 2022. It also set up a new urban air mobility division to come up with smart products within the aviation industry.