Various models of electric vehicles designed to replace the internal combustion automobiles face significant problems as they invariably failed to overcome the limitations involving lithium battery in terms of power capacity, weight, raw materal price, recharging time and preparation of charging stations. Worst of all, the limited supply of lithium will eventually raise its price sky high when all cars use lithium batteries, and the economic value of electric cars will be lost.
KAIST's online electric vehicle project (OLEV) seeks to resolve these fundamental problems involving electric vehicles that have so far been developed. KAIST OLEV, a project to develop a new growth engine for the nation and lead the future of global automotive industry, is an entirely new concept: the electric vehicle picks up power from underground power supplier lines through the non-contact magnetic charging method, while either running or standing. This is the first eco-friendly and economic automotive system that can resolve the problems inherent to previously-developed electric vehicles, according to the KAIST OLEV Project Center.
In February 2009, KAIST researchers first proved that up to 80 percent power conveyance is possible through a gap of 1 centimeter from the power line, and in July they successfully supplied power to a bus -- up to 60 percent across a 12 cm gap from the power line xembedded in the ground -- using power supply and pick-up devices they developed. In this process, KAIST has secured the core technologies for maximizing power efficiency and minimizing the cost of installing the non-contact power supply system. KAIST has established the Online Electric Vehicle Co., Ltd., to undertake business activities related to the OLEV project, including the IPR on power supply and pick-up devices, parts and accessories and commercial promotion. A demonstration event is scheduled for Aug. 13, Thursday.
The impact of the development of the OLEV technology on the energy and environment issues and the overall economy will be enormous. In case a half of the total automobiles running in Korea, or 6 million vehicles, are replaced with OLEV, electric power produced by just two of the nation's atomic power plants will be enough to operate them all, and the nation will be able to reduce crude oil import by 35 million barrels worth U.S.$3 billion a year (supposing $80 per barrel).
Korea's export of OLEV units will in the future surpass the present level of overseas sale of conventional cars. When nations use online electric vehicles in large numbers, their demand for CO2-free power plants will grow. Korea has cutting-edge technology in the construction of atomic power plants. As a world leader in the area of nuclear power plant, Korea will enjoy new opportunities to contribute to the global advancement of atomic power generation as well as transportation industries.
Korea still shares a small portion of the world's automobile market estimated to worth some 2,000 trillion Korean won. But commercialization of the OLEV technology worldwide will greatly enhance Korea's global automotive market share. Successful development of the online electric vehicle requires preemptive investment and positive support by the government for the ultimate purpose of resolving energy and environment problems.
If and when domestic enterprises secure technological supremacy in the next generation automobile market with their online electric vehicles which will replace the 100-year-old combustion engine, it will be the most desirable shortcut to raising Korea's international competitiveness. OLEV promises to be the model of creative growth engine in the 21st century.