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New electric buses in Seoul: Experience is ‘cool!’

24/02/2011

The day when all buses in Seoul no longer need to run on natural gas is appearing to be closer to reality.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to add four more electric buses by the end of the month to the five already operating along a route to N Seoul Tower on Mount Namsan.

It has been two months since Seoul put into service the world’s first commercial electric buses.

The peanut-shaped buses have been well-received by locals and tourists alike, and passengers have expressed their enthusiasm on social networking sites.

“The electric buses are becoming one of the attractions that visitors must experience in Namsan,” said Cho Yoon-jin, an official at the Climate Change and Air Quality Division of Seoul’s government.

“Bloggers are showing a lot of interest and posting comments along with pictures of the electric buses saying, ‘I took the longer bus route, just to experience the electric bus,’ and ‘It is my first time seeing an electric bus. Cool!’”

When fully charged, the bus can travel up to 83 kilometers (51.5 miles), and just like any other electric appliance, the bus’ lithium-ion battery can be recharged in just 30 minutes at a recharging station.

And Seoul residents and tourists will have more opportunities to travel aboard the eco-friendly buses this year. While the buses will operate mainly on Namsan, the metropolitan government plans to begin a pilot operation of electric buses along routes in Yeouido and Gangnam in the second half of the year.

“From a long-term perspective, we plan to introduce more than 300 electric buses by 2014, mostly in short distance bus lines,” Cho said.

The city hopes to replace more than half of its buses with electric ones by 2020.

The government is also in consultations with public institutions regarding the use of electric buses as shuttle buses, and there are plans to install around 300 EV (electric vehicle) charging devices around Seoul.

The use of electric buses is part of the city’s strategy to further improve Seoul’s air quality.

According to Cho, enhancing Seoul’s air quality is not only important to citizens’ health but also helpful to address climate change, which is “one of the biggest challenges that humankind is facing,” Cho said.

Seoul’s smoggy air had been an ongoing annoyance for visitors and locals alike, but the city’s air quality has been steadily improving.

In 2010, Seoul recorded its best air quality since the air quality division started monitoring in 1995.

Last month, Seoul experienced 21 days of air quality similar to that of Jeju Island – seen as a benchmark for clean air in Korea.

See more: Joongangdally

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