When walking around the streets of Jeju recently, residents will perhaps have noticed that something is slightly different to usual. Instead of the roar of petrol cars, the subtle hum of their electric counterparts has become a common background noise.
This is because the number of electric cars on the South Korean island is increasing rapidly. In fact, there are around 7000 of them on Jeju making up about 50 percent of the total number of electric cars in the whole of Korea.
The first electric car reached Jeju's shores in 2008, however, this was very much an outlier. It wasn’t until 2013 that electric cars really started to take off.
That year, Jeju had 160 EVs (electric vehicles) out of a total of around 200 in Korea. In the years to follow, this total continued to rise and the number of cars on Jeju has generally been at around 50 percent of the total number of EVs in Korea.
There were 500 in 2014, 1500 in 2015 and in 2016 there was a pretty substantial jump to 7000 electric cars in total on Jeju. This represents around 2% of all the island's cars.
In the year 2017, it is expected that the number of EVs on Jeju will continue to increase, and the goal is to more than double the current total to make it 15000 electric cars on Jeju. With a population of only 642,388, this would be a significant number indeed.
▲ Wind energy and electric cars are two ways that Jeju hopes to become carbon free by 2030 Photo courtesy IEVE
So, how did we get here?
In order to find out how Jeju managed to become such a leader in the EV industry, we spoke to the Chairman of Jeju's International Electric Vehicle Expo, the worlds only expo related solely to pure electric vehicles, Kim Dae-hwan.
“Jeju has always been at the forefront of environmentally friendly transportation,” he said, “after all, Jeju was originally famous for its horses. They were high quality and exported throughout the rest of Korea.”
Of course, while Jeju’s history in the horse trade might have preceded the current EV trend, there are a lot of other factors that have helped Jeju reach its current position as an EV industry leader.
Kim Dae-hwan points to Jeju’s commitment to environmental policies as one of the key motivators behind the EV boom. Jeju has the goal of becoming completely carbon free by 2030 and the schemes brought on by this have had an impact on the number of EV cars sold on Jeju.
Combined with the smart grid plans announced in 2010 and the efforts to make Gapa-do, an island off Jeju’s southern coast, completely carbon free, the spread of EVs is a key part of the island’s carbon free plans.
▲ Electric cars charging on Gapa-do Photo courtesy IEVE
In order to increase the number of EVs on the road, the government has focused on increasing subsidies and also making sure the infrastructure required is easy to access.
In terms of subsidies, while the Korean government offers around 14 million KRW for an electric car, Jeju also offers an extra six million KRW on top of this.
These subsidies mean that if someone on Jeju is able to take advantage of them all, the total cost of a Renault Samsung SM3 Z.E, the most popular EV in Korea, will be reduced from around 40 million KRW to around 20 million KRW (about $17000).
Add this to that the fact that EV chargers have been installed all over the island, there are currently over 8000, and it means that as well as making the cars affordable Jeju will also have the infrastructure in place to make using EVs as easy as petrol cars.
How does Jeju compare to other places?
Jeju is one of a number of cities and countries really pushing electric car use. It is also currently a regional leader in electric cars.
Kim Dae-hwan pointed to Jeju’s marketing of electric cars as a user's primary car as one of the key points that have seen people so keen to adopt them here. Whereas in other parts of the world, electric cars have been seen as a niche market, something to be used of as a second car, people on Jeju are often buying EVs as their main car.
Of course, Jeju also has some geographical features that make this possible, specifically the fact that it is an island.
While constantly improving, an electric car can't travel as far on one charge as a petrol car will on one tank.
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