SEOUL — South Korea unveiled Tuesday an ambitious plan to dramatically increase the production of environmentally friendly cars by 2020, as part of global efforts to cut carbon emissions and curb climate change. Under the policy goals released by the energy ministry, the annual output of “green cars” like hybrid and electric-powered vehicles would increase sharply from 80,000 this year to 920,000 over the next five years. Seoul eventually hopes such vehicles would account for 20 percent of all cars sold in the domestic market, compared to the current share of just 2 percent. The issue of vehicle emissions has taken on a higher public profile recently in South Korea as a result of the scandal involving Volkswagen and faked emissions standards. Last month, the environment ministry ordered the German automaker to recall 125,500 diesel vehicles sold here and fined the company more than US$12 million. The energy ministry said the new green car policy would help Seoul cut carbon emissions by 3.8 million tons over the next five years. It vowed to invest 150 billion won (US$127 million) to help local carmakers like Hyundai improve the range of battery-powered cars and eventually drive down prices.
Hundreds of new electric charging stations will be built across the nation — with a target of 1,400 by 2020, compared to the current number of 400. “Environmentally friendly cars … will account for 50 percent of the global auto market by 2030,” the ministry said. South Korea has been slow in adopting green car technology, with consumers turned off by high prices and a lack of charging stations.
But Hyundai — the South’s largest automaker — has been seeking to expand its presence in the global green car market that is currently dominated by Japan’s Toyota.