Hybrid car sales soar in Korea, fueled by environmental awareness

The UN Climate Conference in December of last
year produced an unprecedented agreement across the global community.
Countries pledged to combat climate change and aim at a low carbon, resilient and sustainable
future. With this objective in mind, the Korean government
is stepping up efforts to reduce emissions from vehicles… by promoting eco-friendly
hybrid cars, which actually saw an historic jump in sales last year.
Oh Soo-young tells us more in our News Feature tonight. Last year, hybrid car sales hit a milestone
record in the Korean auto market, jumping seven percent from the year before.
This took industry watchers by surprise, as the record was set amid the fall in global
oil prices, which would usually make conventional gasoline models a more attractive option.
In fact, the last three years have seen steady growth for sales of hybrid models… and experts
believe the upward trend is an indication that Korean consumers are becoming more environmentally
conscious. “Full hybrid models are 30 to 40 percent more
fuel-efficient than conventional gasoline models,… which means they emit that much
less in pollutants. And with more than 20 years of technological development, their
price competitiveness, endurance and credibility in the market have all stabilized.” With hybrid models at the helm, sales of eco-friendly
vehicles have grown at an average annual rate of 20 percent for the past five years,….
six times higher than that of conventional cars. “Among the various kinds of green cars — hybrids,
plug-ins, hydrogen and electric vehicles — hybrids are currently the only realistic option, as
they don’t require extra infrastructure like charging stations.” Hybrid vehicles combine a conventional gas
engine with an electric motor and battery, reducing fuel consumption while emitting fewer
pollutants. For years, hybrid carmakers mainly strove
for better fuel efficiency,… but now, the goal is to improve driving performance and
diversify lineups. Korean top automaker Hyundai Motor has released
hybrid variants of its existing models and, last month, introduced the Ioniq, its first
exclusively hybrid model… which industry experts see as the equivalent to the Toyota
Prius, the current market leader. With these developments, hybrid car sales
in Korea are expected to surpass the 50-thousand unit mark this year alone. The hype over hybrid cars in Korea coincides
with global efforts to tackle global warming, including the pledges made at the Paris Climate
Conference in December last year. The Korean government is aiming to cut auto
emissions to 97 grams per kilometer by the year 2020, down from the current 140 grams,…
mainly by expanding green car ownership through various incentives. “We aim to increase green car ownership by
more than 1 million vehicles and bump up market share to 20 percent in the next five years.” Owners of hybrid cars in Korea currently receive
subsidies of up to eight-hundred-24 U.S. dollars and tax deductions of around 22-hundred dollars. But experts say these benefits won’t be enough
to lift the country’s green car market to the level of its global counterparts.
Despite the jump in hybrid car ownership, Korea’s green car sales came to less than
2 percent of all auto sales last year,… while countries like the United States and
Japan have seen more than 25 percent… thanks to stronger subsidies for green car owners…
and strict regulations on heavily polluting vehicles. “The biggest problem is that there’s no single
authority over automobile technology development. In Korea, there are three different government
ministries related to cars.. each with different roles. There’s a need for a control tower
that brings these efforts together… raising awareness, research and incentive programs…
and enhancing Korea’s strengths in the industry.” To further nurture the expanding market of
green vehicles, experts say the government must take a carrot and stick approach… to
induce both carmakers and consumers to pursue a more sustainable means of driving.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News.

About the Author: Michael Flood

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