2015 Kia Soul EVEnlarge Photo
Electric-car incentives are nothing new, but the city of Seoul has taken an unusual and more aggressive approach as it tries to get more of its residents into zero-emission vehicles.
The South Korean capital will offer residents up to 20 million won (about $18,245 at current exchange rates) if they purchase an electric car--but only from one of four designated carmakers.
The city of Seoul is partnering with BMW and General Motors, as well as local brands Kia and Renault-Samsung, according to CNET.
The incentives drop the base price of a BMW i3 from 57.5 million won ($52,933) to 37.5 million ($34,480)--about the same price as a base U.S.-spec i3 once the $7,500 Federal tax credit is applied.
2014 BMW i3Enlarge Photo
In addition, corporate and other organizational buyers will be eligible for 7 million won ($6,400) in further incentives for installing charging stations in parking lots or garages.
These generous incentives are intended to combat a general public disinterest in electric cars, which now account for less than 1,500 of the 20 million vehicles registered in Seoul.
That unfortunate ratio is due not only to typical electric-car problems--like higher purchase prices and sparse charging infrastructure--but also a law that bars electric cars from local highways with speed limits over 60 kilometers per hour (about 37 mph).
That includes nearly 208 miles of highway in and around Seoul, so the restriction is likely as much of an inconvenience--if not more--than hunting around for a public charging station.
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV - Driven, July 2014 (NWAPA Drive Revolution)Enlarge Photo
BMW plans to install 120 charging stations in shopping malls and other high-traffic areas and will offer customers the "i3 Link Package"--which allows owners to rent any other BMW model for 10 days within one year.
It's possible that plans to change the restrictive highway law may surface now that prominent Korean maker Kia is offering the electric Soul EV.
Renault-Samsung has offered its SM3 ZE for two years now--based on the discontinued Renault Fluence ZE built for defunct Israeli startup Better Place--but it has sold only in low numbers.