Charging of electric cars will not be free anymore

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Charging of electric cars will not be free anymore

Starting Monday, owners of electric vehicles (EV) will have to pay when they charge batteries at local stations. Korean automakers say the infrastructure should remain free to help the EV industry actually take off.

The government has been charging fees for slow chargers, which take about four to five hours for a full charge. It will now start charging fees for the so-called super-charger, which takes about 30 minutes.

According to the Ministry of Environment, EV owners will now have to pay 313.1 won (27 cents) per kilowatt-hour at 337 charging stations nationwide.

“It is a measure that is necessary to lower the government’s financial burdens and to attract private businesses that are willing to run charging stations in the future,” an Environment Ministry spokesman said.

Local automakers say the policy has come too early and doesn’t fit with the government’s plan of fostering the EV market. “The Korean EV market hasn’t grown up yet,” a spokesman for a local automaker said. “We still need to persuade consumers to buy environmentally friendly cars. Forcing EV owners to pay for their power source will definitely not be helpful in developing related infrastructures.”

With the policy going into effect, owners of Hyundai Motor’s Ioniq EV will need to pay about 8,000 won for a full charge. It costs about 7,000 won to fully charge Renault Samsung Motor’s Z.E. That might sound cheap, but considering that most EVs currently can travel only about 150 kilometers (90 miles) on a full charge, owners need to charge batteries often. Making consumers pay for charging could deglamorize the EVs.

So far, they’re not very popular. The government of Jeju Island, which is heavily promoting EVs, offered subsidies on the sticker price to 4,000 EVs this year, but only 1,527 applications were submitted and the application period has ended. The situation isn’t any better in other regions, including Seoul, according to government officials.

The Environment Ministry says it is reasonable to charge for electricity since other countries do, like Italy and the United Kingdom. But industry insiders argue that the Korean EV market can’t be compared to those countries. Norway, one of the biggest EV markets in the world, has about 50,000 EVs, but there were only 5,757 EVs in Korea as of last year. The government’s plan is to increase the number by 8,000 by the end of the year. Still, that would be about 25 percent of Norway’s total.

Many EV owners weren’t aware about the change in policy. “I heard nothing about that policy change when I bought my car earlier in the year,” said Kim Sang-hyun, 37, an owner of a BMW i3. “I thought it was a sensible choice to buy an EV considering those subsidies, but it feels like the government isn’t very interested in fostering the green car market now.”


BY KWON SANG-SOO [kwon.sangsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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