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Electric cars get volt of confidenceThe Weekly shares the results of an electric vehicle test drive at the island’s EV control tower
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승인 2014.07.21  11:37:17
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn
▲ The author juices up the SM3 Z.E. at the Jeju Science Park charging station. Photo courtesy Darren Southcott

The Jeju EV Service Company offers members of the public the opportunity to test drive an electric vehicle, or EV, at their Jeju Science Park office in Yeong-pyeongdong, Jeju City. All you need to do is register, turn up and one of their staff will give you the keys and join you for the ride.

I arrived and was met by Kang Ji Woong who began by showing me a powerpoint demonstration of what the Jeju EV Service Company does.

All EVs are automatically signed up to their EV Infra Operation Center and a mobile application allows drivers to manage everything about the car, from charging and billing to power management.

The company manages EV infra-structure and monitors all of the island’s EVs through a real-time smartgrid system which knows how much battery you have left, when it will run out and how close the nearest charging station is.

▲ Manager Kang Ji Woong provides an overview of the EV Infra Operation Center. Photo by Darren Southcott

Getting behind the wheel
After about 10 minutes we went outside and I was given a chunky credit card which slotted in just below the stereo. To get the car started I just clicked a large round button - “Turn on engine” - and away we went.

I was driving the all-electric variant of the SM3 called the Z.E., made by Renault Samsung Motors. The car is produced in Busan and hit the market in October 2013. It is one of the most popular EVs and held 58 percent of the Korean market in 2013 with 453 cars sold.

The complete lack of sound made things very surreal and as I put my foot down there was none of the thrust expected of conventional cars. This gave an almost floating and gliding sensation, perhaps due to the built-in “creep” to emulate standard cars. It also felt incredibly light, leaving me feeling vulnerable and unsure.

In fact, the SM3 Z.E. is heavier and longer than the conventional model due to the battery, which weighs 250 k.g. and is stored in the rear thanks to a 13 c.m. extension. A light frame and body seek to offset this burden, with no effect on safety, said Kang.

▲ An image of the Samsung-Renault SM3 Z.E., one of which the author took for a spin on Jeju's roads. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

We drove from up at the Science Park which is mid-mountain, making our way down to the city. EVs charge when traveling downhill so our descent felt incredibly productive, harvesting energy all the way.

When it came to returning it was really smooth and simulator-like. It was tempting to test out the full strength of the car but the built in sat-nav system loudly bleeped whenever we approached the speed limit. Perhaps when EVs take over the island we will see a reduction in road traffic accidents.

Despite having plenty of torque, with-out a gearbox (due to battery limitations) EVs struggle to transfer that into power once the maximum revs per minute is reached. The gearless SM3 thus lacks the thrust experienced in conventional cars.

Despite slowing uphill somewhat, I did manage to overtake the 502 bus and that is no mean feat. The steeper incline did not seem to put stress on the car, which just continued its leisurely glide.

Time for a recharge
After about 40 minutes we returned and it was time for a recharge. Kang asked me to pop open the trunk and I was faced with what looked like a giant garden hose. I pulled it out, plugged it in, swiped my smartcard and waited. Much easier than a gas station and without the sickly smell.

▲ A map of Jeju's electric vehicle charging stations.

A full charge on such a high power public charging station would normally take a couple of hours. This compares to 3-5 hours on high power outlets and 6-8 hours on standard outlets. In most cases it’s the available electrical outlet and not the battery that governs charge times.

As I was charging Kang told me that the amount of life the battery gives you depends on the season. In winter the battery will work harder to heat the car and keep the engine running, dropping a full-charge run from 160 k.m. to 100 k.m. For this reason EV drivers are advised to limit the use of heating, air-conditioning and other in-car functions if on a low charge.

EV charging costs around 100 to 400 won for every 10 kilometers depending on the season and time of day, with sum-mer evenings being the most expensive and the early hours of spring and autumn being cheapest.
With all this energy being used, EVs still only produce less than 1 percent of the carbon emissions of conventional cars, particularly when energy sources are renewable, such as on Jeju which plans to be completely carbon free by 2030.

It should also be considered that the battery itself is a consumable item and costs around a third of the price of the vehicle. Most lithium-ion batteries will run to 80 percent efficiency for around five years and 100,000 kilometers, after which they begin to deteriorate for up to 10 years use.

▲ The Jeju Electric Vehicle Service website.

In all the testdrive was a great success and I hope to purchase an EV if and when the bank balance allows. Now is a good time to buy as the local government currently provides around 20 million won in subsidies to halve the approx-imate 40 million won cost. As these hefty subsidies are phased out, however, EV costs will accordingly fall as facilities and the vehicles themselves improve.

For more information about how to book your own test drive contact the Jeju EV Service at 064-723-0853 or visit jejuevservice.com.

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