Renault Samsung Motors, the South Korean unit of Renault S.A., Monday entered the race to sell electric cars in Asia's fourth-biggest economy, announcing plans to start sales of its all-electric powered car to customers from the second half of next year.
South Korean car makers are at the initial stage of introducing electric vehicles as they see potential demand for the environment-friendly cars amid rising oil prices.
Kia Motors aims to introduce an all-electric version of its Ray car in 2013 for general customers, depending on Korea's progress in building charging stations for electric vehicles. Hyundai Motor, which owns 34% stake in Kia, plans to sell an Elantra-sized compact electric car from 2014.
The make-or-break issue for car makers looking to introduce all-electric cars in Korea is the lack of charging stations across the country. Only a small number of charging stations currently exist and are used for Hyundai and Kia electric vehicles -- Hyundai's BlueOn and Kia's Ray--used by the Korean government. The government has said it will build 150,000 charging stations across the country by 2016 to help boost sales of eco-friendly vehicles.
Prior to sale of the SM3 ZE (Renault Fluence) to customers, Renault Samsung said it will supply 500 units of the pure electric car at KRW64 million ($55,000) per vehicle to public organizations this year in a pilot program. The per-vehicle price includes the government's current subsidy worth KRW15 million.
"We will have customers pay for the battery on a lease program to help ease their initial burden in purchasing the car," Lee Sang-tae, Renault Samsung's deputy overseas program director, said. "The final sticker price will be determined depending on what the government's subsidies are for customers."
LG Chem will supply a 24-kilowatt lithium-ion polymer battery for the SM3 ZE model built at the auto maker's Busan plant, Mr. Lee said. He expects the price of the 24-kilowatt battery to be lowered from the current KRW24 million, pulling down the price of the electric car as well.
LG Chem is also the supplier of car battery for General Motors Co.'s (GM) Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.
GM Korea does not have a plan to sell an electric version of the Chevrolet Spark mini car in the domestic market though the company will produce it next year at its Changwon plant for export initially to California.
BMW AG is also set to enter the local electric car market in 2014 with its i3 model following its global launch in 2013.
Hyundai said it does not have a plan to sell the BlueOn all-electric car to customers.