|▲ Electric vehicle carmakers, experts and potential customers filled ICC Jeju for the 3rd International Electric Vehicle Expo. Photo by Douglas MacDonald
Record numbers of automakers and parts makers flocked to the third International Electric Vehicle Expo at the Jeju International Convention Center.
Some 145 companies, almost twice the number from last year and including some of the biggest names in the auto-industry, showcased cutting edge technologies at the March 18-24 event.
Highlights included Hyundai Motors unveiling of its electric vehicle (EV), the Ioniq. The vehicle, available to buy from June, boasts a top speed of 180km/h and will be able to travel 169 kilometers on a single charge, the equivalent of travelling the circumference of Jeju once.
Japanese carmaker Nissan also showed off its popular environmentally friendly vehicle the Leaf, the world's biggest selling EV to date.
Samsung Renault, makers of the SM3, remains the company responsible for selling the most electric cars in Korea, with 1,767 models sold last year.
The carmaker displayed its one-seater Twizy models as well as its Formula-E electric racing car, capable of a top speed of 220 kilometers per hour.
And German carmaker BMW displayed the i3, its popular EV, while battery makers LG Chem and Samsung SDI showed off their latest designs for EV batteries.
In total, 25 electric vehicle associations from 11 nations met with car industry bosses and government officials during the expo. Jeju’s plans to become carbon-free by 2030, renewable energy and the electric vehicle’s role in the future of the automobile industry were among topics under discussion.
In 2015, 72,000 visitors attended the expo, with 73 international companies taking part. A 16 million won sum was generated in sales and partnerships for last year's event.
This year, the theme was Carbon-Free island and Smart Green City, and a series of talks were held with industry leaders discussing Jeju’s plans to run only zero-emission vehicles by 2030.
Chief executive officers (CEOs) of major car companies tackled issues such as what replacing internal combustion (IC) engine cars with EVs meant for their business.
Kim Bang Sin, Daelim Motor Company CEO , was among industry bosses speaking in support of EVs. He cited inefficiency in IC engines’ energy usage as a major reason for change.
“We are living on a planet that has limited energy resources so it's clear what sort of energy we should use,” he said.
He added: “I cannot really say that we have to eradicate all the internal combustion engine vehicles. However when we think about energy efficiency and also urban personal mobility I believe that we should think about other options.”
Gilles Normand, chairman of Asia-Pacific Region, Renault Asia-Pacific, said: “We don't yet know how to fly an electric plane, because the technology is not ready, but we know how to run electric cars and this is why we need to develop more electric cars.”
Mr Normand pointed to the example of Norway where more than 15 per cent of the total market in new cars is from EV. He also cited an increase in total car sales in Jeju, which rose from three per cent last year to eight per cent this year, as proof of the growth in the EV market.
“Potentially this can grow very considerably whereas today EVs are still only a fraction of the market,” he said.
Mr Normand added it was “very possible” for EVs to reach 10 per cent of the total automarket by 2020.
But other car bosses said big changes were still needed for electric cars sales to surpass that of conventional motors.
Detroit Electric CEO Albert Lam said the dream of a carbon free island would not be reachable without V2G, a new technology which enables vehicles to help power homes and businesses through stored energy.
Mr Lam said: “Unfortunately at the moment we have smart grids but dumb electric cars.”
He added: “It is no longer an isolated island play between vehicle and energy supplier. It is an interconnected play between the energy supplier and the actual mobility supplier. It is very important as we go forward every year, as we plan this conference how are we going to work with EV that has V2G capability.”