Korean Oil Company Helps Drivers Save Gas With...Parking Balloons?

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Sometimes the best ideas are also the simplest.

That was our first thought on seeing one gas-saving idea from nothing less than an oil company in South Korea.

Called the HERE balloon, it's oil giant S-Oil's way of reducing the time drivers spend looking for a space in a large parking lot--and therefore, the gas they waste while doing so.

It's amazingly simple. Bright yellow arrow-shaped balloons are tied to every parking space.

When a car is parked, it pulls the balloon's tether down so it's not visible to those scanning for spaces. But in empty spaces, the balloon is high enough that it can be seen across a parking lot--making it easy for drivers to spot all the unoccupied spaces.

S-Oil estimates that the average driver in South Korean capital Seoul drives for a full half-kilometer each day looking for a space. Over a month, that's 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) per car, used for nothing more than parking--and that can mean a whole liter of gas wasted.

With the balloons, S-Oil says that in just one day, in one parking lot, 700 cars used 23 liters (6 gallons) less oil. Multiply that across more parking lots and more days and you can see the cumulative benefit.

It's not a perfect solution, for a few reasons.

One is that helium never stays in balloons for long, requiring constant refilling of a rare, non-renewable gas valuable for more important medical and scientific resources. The other is that it's almost inevitable that at some point, a kid will come along with a pair of scissors and release them all into space...

Even so, we like it, and it's a satisfyingly low-tech, low-hanging fruit solution to the problem of saving gas.

[Hat tip: John C. Briggs]


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Comments (12)
  1. I love it, great job South Korea

  2. Forget the balloon litter-ride an electric shopping cart to the store-load up, then go home. No gas, no parking no parking lot, now store provided cart, no cart attenders required. epowertrikes.com

  3. If the balloons start popping, then it won't work anymore...

    Wouldn't driving a hybrid or EV be better in saving overall?

    How about a solar panel covered parking structure with LED per spot indicating open spot?

  4. The solar idea is definitely a useful one. Plenty of underground garages use an LED and sensor system to highlight empty spaces and I can't see why a solar-powered one wouldn't be suitable for an outdoor lot.

  5. Instead of using a balloon why not use a pole and flag ( like the safety flag for a bike) with a spring loaded hinge? More initial outlay but no on-going helium costs and less likely to be vandalized.

  6. Brilliantly simple solution...and very cost effective considering it is an outdoor parking that is exposed to the element...

  7. Feel-good BS. The most telling line in the video (@2:05): "S-Oil, the oil seller, gained the IMPRESSION of an oil saving company." An IMPRESSION.

    S. Korea is a country without any oil reserves of their own, yet has an area that is only 38,691 sq. mi. (about halfway between Kentucky at 40,409 and Indiana at 36,417 - the 27th and 38th largest states) and it's population of 50 million is larger than that of California (38+ million) and New York City (8+ million) states combined. California is 163,696 sq. mi. and NYC is 468.5.

    With their pop. density and lack of natural oil reserves, S. Korea SHOULD be a leader in EVs (especially since they have large scale auto manufacturing). Ironically, the Chevy Spark EV is made there, no less!

  8. This makes no sense. The helium used in the balloon will leak out over not very long. It is also a rare thing (how much helium does Korea make?). Or do they use hydrogen? People will discover the fun in making them explode!!

    Seems more like a marketing ploy than a real solution.

  9. I use the reverse parking option. When I must go to the larger parking areas I park right away and closest to the entry/exit point. I walk the rest of the way. No need for anything special except my brain in full control. Pass this on!

  10. is that right go in the opposite way to park? (1:25 minute)

  11. i like the color of balloons.

  12. Great idea! Checkout Parqt a new mobile application that understands when a Bluetooth enabled car and a smart phone is unpaired to let others know when a spot becomes available. Basically instead of using balloons they are using Bluetooth. They also reward users with valuable gift cards for sharing this information.

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