Spectators and officials at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games are riding through PyeongChang in vehicles of the future, such as electric shuttle buses and self-driving cars.



Hyundai's fuel-cell powered self-driving car, the Nexo, 2018 Seoul, South Korea. (Photo courtesy Hyundai Motor)


Hyundai Motor Group, the country’s largest automaker, and the public utility Korea Electric Power Corporation  (KEPCO), both official partners of the Winter Olympic Games, are supplying at least 300 eco-friendly cars and have placed charging facilities to support them all over town.


About 20 charging facilities have been installed at stadiums and athletes’ villages, the media village and hotels, airports and terminals.


Hyundai has five of its new Nexo hydrogen fuel cell sport utility vehicles available to test drive. The Nexos are rated at Level 4 on the Society of Automotive Engineers’ index, meaning the cars can drive on their own except for some emergency situations where a human has to intervene.


Anyone who signs up at the Hyundai Pavilion near the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium or online can take a 15 minute test drive in a Nexo.


Longer test drives are available from Gyeongpo Lake in Gangneung and Jinbu Terminal in Pyeongchang, though these Nexo cars do not come with autonomous driving technology, though they are powered by zero-emission fuel cells.


The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) agreed to buy 300 electric vehicles along with Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) for use at the 2018 Winter Olympics.


“Electric vehicles are future transportation methods for generations with climatic changes and major parts of new energy industries.” said Minister Ju Hyeong-hwan of MOTIE. “We are going to promote electric vehicle industry as major exporting industry for next generations by securing world’s best competitive edge in electric vehicles and establishing charging infrastructures and accelerating in technical developments to develop futuristic electric vehicles.


At a news conference February 2 on the future cars of South Korea, MOTIE said that for the next five years until 2022, the Korean government and private sector will invest more than 35 trillion won (US$32.5 billion) in the future car industry.


The Korean government and private sector will jointly develop core technologies for autonomous vehicles and construct smart traffic systems to introduce the infrastructure necessary for completely autonomous cars by 2022.


For electric cars, the Korean government plans to develop some that can travel more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) on a single charge, and super chargers that can charge twice as fast as the current ones do.


Replacing buses, taxis, and pickup trucks with their electric counterparts is another goal of South Korea's future car development strategy. From 2019, an annual average of about 10 percent of these vehicles will be replaced with electric vehicles, allowing the complete replacement by 2030.


By Sunny Lewis

Environment News Service (ENS)