E-Mart installs charging stations for electric cars

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E-Mart installs charging stations for electric cars


Officials from E-Mart, Posco ICT, BMW and the Ministry of Environment charge an electric car with a smartphone app at E-Mart’s Yongin store in Gyeonggi yesterday. At E-Mart’s electric car charging facility, customers can refill a BMW i3, Ray Soul, SM3, Nissan Leaf and GM Spark. [NEWSIS]

Proponents of electric vehicles say the cars are our future if we want to save our planet.

Ordinary consumers are on the fence partly because of a lack of infrastructure for charging the vehicles away from home.

Korea’s Ministry of Environment is turning to retail chains for a solution. They want to see people charging their electric cars while they shop.

E-Mart, the country’s largest discount chain, said that it began operating EV charging stations in 80 branches as of yesterday in partnership with BMW Korea, Posco ICT and the Ministry of Environment.

The three parties, which signed an agreement to expand EV charging stations in 2011, held a ceremony to celebrate the operations at an E-Mart store in Jukjeon, Gyeonggi.

The retailer offers the location while BMW Korea and Posco ICT operate the stations and chargers.

All electric vehicles available in Korea - BMW’s i3, Renault Samsung’s SM3 Z.E., Kia’s Soul EV and Chevrolet’s Spark EV - can charge at the stations.

E-Mart said an electric car can run for around 50 kilometers (31 miles), roughly a 40-minute drive, on a one-hour charge.

Currently, 61 percent of Korea’s charging stations are located in either Seoul and adjunct Gyeonggi or on Jeju Island.

The new initiative, E-Mart said, will extend the availability of charging stations even to some far-flung areas.

“Now, EV charging points are installed in 35 cities,” said Kim Bo-bae, an E-Mart public relations official. “We believe that installing charging stations at supermarkets can ease the disproportionate concentration issue.”

The chain said it will set up EV charging points in new branches.

“I can’t say all new E-Marts will have this,” Kim said, “but many will because of the growing demand and popularity of electric vehicles.”

The Ministry of Environment said the number of electric vehicles continues to rise. In 2011, only 338 such cars were registered, which rose to 2,534 as of June.

E-Mart said the charging service will be free until Oct. 21. Afterward, drivers will have to purchase a membership card from Posco ICT, an engineering and IT company, and pay.

Telecommunication provider KT also announced earlier this month it would install electric car charging stations by 2019 in 400 branches nationwide.

BY Park eun-jee [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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