Seoul Is Rolling With Electric Buses and Hopes to Win Global Green Vehicle Race

Hop aboard the South Korean capital’s sweet new ride.

Seoul Namsan Mountain


Seoul, the capital of South Korea, announced this week that it is rolling out its first fleet of full-sized electric buses to be used for public transportation. The building of the buses was done through an agreement with Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hankuk Fiber.

The vehicles will run on Seoul’s Namsan Mountain circuit, a central route for the entire city, especially North of Seoul’s Han river. The buses are about 36 feet long, only require 30 minutes to charge when using a high-speed battery charger, can run up to 51.6 miles on a single charge, and have a maximum speed of 62 miles per hour.

Similar fleets have been rolled out in other cities–such as Los Angeles and Mumbai–in generally small numbers as a way to road-test the buses, but Seoul has announced that half of its public transport vehicles will be electric by 2020. The state of California, by way of comparison, wants buses with zero tailpipe emissions to constitute only 15% of public agency bus orders in 2012.

The transition to electric buses underscores Seoul’s increasing effort to be a global leader in the electric vehicle market and an example of a bustling, eco-progressive Asian capital. The city has recently also announced its intentions to be a “Green-Car, Smart City” and has made huge strides to improve waterways, plant trees, and create “green space,” despite its population of 10.4 million people and an over-abundance of cars crowding the city.

Today also marked the official opening of a railway linking Incheon International airport to central Seoul, 10 years after the completion of the airport itself. Incheon International Airport is situated about 36 miles away from the city and can take up to 2 hours to reach by bus, amid Seoul’s heavy traffic congestion. The airport railway signals an additional effort on the part of the government to be a little more Earth–and human–friendly.

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About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.