South Korea is an interesting case in “Electric Vehicle World.” LG Chem, probably the most notable EV battery company not connected to Tesla, is based there. It seems like LG Chem has battery contracts with every single automaker (it might be more like 60%). SK Innovation and Samsung SDI, medium-sized battery producers, also call Korea home. And then there are Hyundai and Kia, or Hyundai–Kia if you combine them due to their intertwined investment structure. These large automakers have produced highly acclaimed electric vehicles, but they struggle to produce a large number of them — or just don’t care to do so.
Of course, South Korea is a developed country with a sizable economy. It is keen on being a global leader and it often is. So, a couple of recent news items are not all that surprising.
First of all, like in other developed nations, Tesla enthusiasts were happy to stand in line for early access to the Model 3, and with the car finally hitting Tesla stores in the country, they were happy again to line up through the walkways of shopping malls for some time touching and sitting in the breakthrough EV.
— Tae Koan, Ko (@preastro) August 15, 2019
Perhaps that enthusiasm for a single electric vehicle model empowered political leaders in the country a bit. Korea was never too thrilled about the global diesel emissions cheat scandal, whether dealing with Volkswagen’s role in it, BMW’s, Daimler’s, or Nissan’s. However, in the face of news that Volkswagen AG has been cheating on the software that was supposed to fix Volkswagen’s diesel cheating problem, the country has gone a step further and banned the sale of Volkswagen AG diesel vehicles within its borders. Hallelujah!
In total, 8 Audi, Volkswagen, and Porsche models are being banned. “South Korean officials noted that the vehicles in question were emitting ten times more nitrogen oxide gas than normal,” Teslarati writes. “They were manipulated so that the emission mitigation devices perform at lower levels in driving conditions that are different from those when they were certificated,” according to an official from South Korean Ministry of Environment. There will also be new fines. “The country is also ordering correction measures and penalties, which are expected to reach about 7.9 billion won ($6.5 million) for Audi, and 4 billion won ($3.3 million) for Porsche. An investigation into the Volkswagen AG brands will also be underway.”
Overall, it seems clear: EVs are in and diesels are out. More specifically, South Koreans are welcoming the Tesla Model 3 en masse and the government probably noticed that when deciding to give polluting diesels the boot.
— #LongLiveTeslaTruth (@ElonsWorld) August 13, 2019
And what about those Korean automakers noted at the top? Well, it’s still unclear if they are taking the transition seriously and how willing they are to sell high numbers of electric cars. The Hyundai Kona EV, Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Ioniq EV, and Kia Soul EV are considered very competitive electric vehicles. However, the companies don’t have production capacity anywhere close to consumer demand. In Poland, the quota (max) for Kona EV sales this year was 15, according to an early owner of the vehicle who I talked to. In Ireland, the 2019 quota for the Kia Niro EV was 5. That apparently sold out within 3 hours.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.