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Concerns Over Battery Fires Hinder South Korea’s EV Sales

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Safety Concerns Impacting EV Sales
South Korea witnessed a 0.1% decline in electric vehicle (EV) sales in 2023, marking the first annual drop since 2017. The primary factor contributing to this decline is the apprehension among drivers regarding the risk of battery fires. A survey conducted by the Korea Transportation Safety Authority in November revealed that South Korean drivers fear potential EV fires during charging or in the event of a collision.

Notable Incidents Raise Alarm
The decline in EV sales can be linked to several high-profile cases of EVs catching fire in South Korea in 2020 and 2021. Notably, an electric bus manufactured by Hyundai Motor caught fire three years ago, raising concerns about the safety of EVs. Additionally, Hyundai Motor’s recall of over 77,000 Kona EVs globally due to fire incidents added to the apprehension. Disagreements between Hyundai and battery supplier LG Chem further fueled uncertainties.

Insufficient Charging Infrastructure
A significant hurdle to EV adoption in South Korea is the insufficient number of charging points. The lack of charging infrastructure, particularly in closed-space underground parking lots of high-rise apartment buildings, has dissuaded drivers from transitioning to EVs. This has contributed to the overall decline in EV sales.

Economic Factors at Play
Beyond safety concerns, economic factors have played a role in the drop in EV sales. The relatively higher prices of EVs compared to traditional passenger cars, coupled with rising interest rates, have deterred potential buyers. Globally, affordability, anxiety over battery range, and a sparse network of charging points have been identified as key factors influencing consumer decisions.

Global Trends and Concerns
The hesitancy towards EV adoption is not unique to South Korea. Internationally, consumers cite price affordability, concerns about battery range, limited charging infrastructure, and higher insurance costs as reasons for reconsidering the shift to electric vehicles. Recent warnings from U.S. car dealers highlight the need for addressing these concerns on a broader scale.

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