(Hyundai Motor Group)
Amid the global transition to electric vehicles, carmakers are moving fast to set up a charging infrastructure in Korea not only to increase their sales, but to gain dominance in a country where no clear market leader has yet surfaced.
For automakers, building recharging points, which are still in the nascent stage here in terms of both numbers and maintenance, has become pivotal to overcoming electric vehicles’ general and biggest weakness -- a shorter driving range.
According to government data, there were some 70,000 chargers including 54,000 slow chargers for 177,000 electric vehicles running in the country as of June.
Market insiders viewed that for automakers, a fierce race to build a dense charging infrastructure will decide who takes the lead in the local market.
According to the industry, Tesla, which runs around 184,000 charging stations in the US, controls some 55 percent market share when it comes to high-speed chargers. It currently operates around 30 charging stations in Korea.
In Korea, setting up charging access has been mainly led by the government due to low profitability for companies, as demand is still not high.
But in February, the government released a plan to allow companies to set up fast charging stations on land owned by public institutions. Authorities said they also are considering additionally installing chargers at all of around 12,000 gas stations across the country.
The country’s largest automaker Hyundai Motor Group has been operating 12 high-speed charging stations under the name “E-pit.” Hyundai Motor’s Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 models can be charged up to 80 percent in 18 minutes at the stations.
Earlier this week, the Korean automaker opened a new E-pit in Daejeon, with four 260-kilowatt superfast chargers and two 100-kW fast chargers. Vehicles from other brands that use DC Combo 1 type can be charged there as well.
Meanwhile, foreign car brands have also been accelerating the setting up of the charging infrastructure, and are offering price-competitive benefits.
Volkswagen Group, which owns Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche under its wing, has unveiled a plan that would set up electric vehicle charging stations by year-end where its brand users can receive up to a 30 percent discount. The chargers will also be open to vehicles from other makers.
The group said it would open 500 charging stations by 2025 across Korea that offer both slow and fast chargers.
Porsche Korea, which shipped the second-highest number of pure electric vehicles in Korea as an import carmaker last year, has built 100 slow chargers out of 250 planned for installation by 2025.
“Expanding the number of fast chargers for EVs not only costs a lot of money -- about 20 times more expensive than slow chargers -- but installation is also very complicated technically. Despite such hurdles, the automakers setting up EV charging access first will be closely related to the number of sales because they’re inseparable,” said Choi Woong-chul, a professor of automotive engineering from Kookmin University.
By Kim Da-sol (email@example.com)