Chinese brands behind 50% of e-buses in Korea despite low efficiency and quality issue

2022.07.26 13:52:57 | 2022.07.26 15:01:37

Hyundai Motor’s Elec City. [Photo by Hyundai Motor Co.]이미지 확대

Hyundai Motor’s Elec City. [Photo by Hyundai Motor Co.]

China-made electric buses have rapidly proliferated to take up half of the South Korean market as of June as their price competiveness was prioritized over quality and energy efficiency under hasty migration to electric public transportation.

According to the auto industry on Monday, recent electric bus driving tests conducted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government found Hyundai Motor’s electric bus topping the fuel efficiency evaluations whereas Chinese produces ranked at the bottom.

The Seoul city government conducted driving tests of electric buses of eight producers, including three domestic companies - Hyundai Motor, Edison Motors, and Woojin Industrial – and five Chinese brand importers – Bumhan Mobility, GS Global, Viva Mobility, Pline Motors, and Eon Motors.

Hyundai Motor’s Elec City recorded the best mileage with 1.302km/kWh, while buses made in China such as “Higer Hypers” imported by Pline Motors recorded only 1.13km/kWh, Viva Mobility’s Asiastar 1.16km/kWh, Bumhan Mobility’s E-sky 1.21km/kWh. Hyundai Elec City’s energy efficiency was 8 to 28 percent higher than the buses manufactured in China.

As of the end of last year, more than 1,220 electric buses were on the road in Korea, with an estimated e-bus market size of around 350 billion won ($267 million).

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Chinese imports made up 50 percent in the entire Korean electric bus market during the first half of this year, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA). Hyundai Motor commanded the second-largest 24 percent with 204 buses, followed by Edison Motors with 19 percent. Hyundai Motor ranked first last year with 39 percent, but gave way to Chinese players this year.

Chinese electric buses have gained ground through cheaper prices. Coupled with Korea’s generous, full government subsidies for electric vehicles that are equally applied to both domestic and import brands’ cars, Chinese electric buses can cost up to 40 million won cheaper than Korean-made electric buses.

In China, Korean electric vehicles are subject to only partial or less government EV subsidies than local brands. Beijing had not allowed any subsidies to electric vehicles with foreign-made batteries until recently to promote local products.

The transportation industry has also expressed its concern about maintenance issues with Chinese electric buses. Buses are typically used for almost 10 years but if the import business or the manufacturing company is shut down, it will be difficult to find parts and get repairs of the import electric buses.

By Seo Jin-woo and Susan Lee

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]