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Seoul claims world first with commercial electric bus service

posted 3 Jan 2011, 11:08 by Mpelembe   [ updated 3 Jan 2011, 11:10 ]

Seoul City in South Korea is claiming a world first with a fully-electric commerical bus route introduced in the city last month. The full-sized eco-friendly buses are operating on a Seoul mountain circular route but more routes are planned.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (DECEMBER 30, 2010) REUTERS - The Seoul Metropolitan Government says its electric bus service, launched on December 21, is the first commercial electric bus service in the world.

There are three bus routes circulating Seoul's Namsan Mountain and a total of five electric buses are in service.

"Other cities around the world have developed electric buses but most of these buses were used for purpose of the events. However, the city of Seoul has developed these electric buses for commercial operation and we believe that this is the first time in the world to have these electric buses to go into operation for commercial use," said Cho Yoonjin at Climate Change & Air Quality Management Division of Seoul Metropolitan Government on Thursday (December 30).

Seoul has worked on a project to develop full-size electric buses with local technology for the past eighteen months, following an agreement with Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hankuk Fibre.

The bus bodies are made of a carbon composite material, not of iron plates, which considerably reduces the vehicle's weight while reinforcing durability.

"The biggest feature of these electric buses is that the car body of buses use carbon-fiber composite material which is used to make space ships and which are really light. In addition, the battery of these buses is lithium-ion polymer batteries, which shows really great performance," said Cho.

With the initiation of the electric bus service, Seoul expects that it will not only improve air quality in the city but also lead technology of large-sized electric vehicles in the global electric car market.

City officials say the development of electric buses has opened the possibility of shifting a focus of the electric market from small cars to large-sized vehicles.

However, the electric bus has some inconvenient parts for drivers.

"Recharging is a little bit frequent for the length of the route and the time it takes to recharge should be improved. However, this is very positive when it comes to eco-friendly concept." said bus driver Yoo Tae-soo.

Most commuters have welcomed the eco-friendly service and say the electric bus doesn't seem very different from the diesel-driven version.

"I've been wondering about an electric bus, and it's good to take it just in time. I'm still not quite familiar with the electric bus, but I don't' feel much difference compared to a regular bus in terms of feeling comfortable to ride it," said passenger Cho Hyun-hee..

The electric coaches serving Seoul's Namsan mountain circular routes are 11.05 metres (25.15 feet) long and run up to 83 km (51.6 miles) with a single charge. They can be fully charged in less than 30 minutes with a high-speed battery charger.

The electric bus is powered by a 322-horsepower engine and has a top speed of 100 kmh (62.1 miles). The engine is run by a high-capacity lithium-ion battery and an energy saving system that can collect and reuse energy generated from brakes when running downhill.

Seoul transportation officals say they plan to replace half the city's diesel-driven buses with electric versions by 2020.