Issue: Mar 2010


Seoul Unveils Wirelessly Charged Electric Vehicle



by Alan Tran

A wirelessly charged electric vehicle went into service March 9 at the Seoul Grand Park in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology President Suh Nam-pyo attended a ceremony unveiling the vehicle held at the Park.

Known as on-line electric vehicle (OLEV), the vehicle powered by electricity from an electrical charging strip planted about 5cm under the road surface, is in pilot operation at the theme park. The Seoul Grand Park has replaced the shuttle trains (called "elephant train") that run on diesel with the eco-friendly OLEV.

The OLEV developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is charged wirelessly over a 400-meter long stretch of electrical strip and runs an additional 400 meters on the charged battery. The special electrical strip creates a magnetic field that generates magnetic force. The magnetic force is sent wirelessly to the vehicle and converted into electricity, which is then used to power the vehicle. At the Seoul Grand Park, the OLEV will service a 2.2 kilometer-long circular route.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government made the decision to deploy OLEV at the Seoul Grand Park last August even as KAIST was developing the prototype of the electric vehicle. The first OLEV was built and the electrical strips were laid in January. Numerous safety evaluations and test runs to improve efficiency have been conducted since then.

Tests have shown that the magnetic field used in the system poses no health risks. By using segmentation technology that provides electricity in sections, the amount of magnetic field generated is minimized. During a month- long test run in February the magnetic field generated was measured at below the international standard of 62.5mG, the city said.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to introduce OLEVs as part of its public bus transportation system. With buses responsible for meeting about 30 percent of the transportation demand and median bus lanes in place in 25 areas totaling 90.2 kilometers, wirelessly charged electric buses are an attractive green alternative for Seoul.

The KAIST-developed OLEV is commercially viable because of the lighter battery required and because it does not require an extended standby time for charging. One of the achievements of the KAIST team is the highly efficient charging system despite the 13cm gap between the road surface and the vehicle. In fact, many countries have shown interest in the OLEV development as commercialization of similar vehicles failed in the United States and elsewhere.

The city, which is pioneering the use of green cars in the country, believes the OLEV is a solution to Seoul's traffic problems. The city government plans to lay the foundation for the introduction of OLEV this year. Projects for this year include deciding the routes and building charging stations. In an effort to improve air pollution and curb greenhouse gas emissions, the city plans to deploy green cars in all its public transportation systems, including taxis and buses, by 2020. The city government's fleet of official cars will also be replaced by green cars.

Last year, Seoul led the way in introducing green cars by becoming the first city in the country to operate hybrid taxis.

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