The KAIST Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) was chosen as one of the “50 Best Innovations of 2010” in the November 22 issue of Time. The list, mostly scientific in nature, consists of the following subcategories: technology, transportation, health & medicine, bioengineering, green energy, clothing, robot/software, military, miscellaneous, and expert picks. OLEV was placed under the transportation category, and was introduced to serve as a potential intermediary between the existing current-generation combustion vehicles to the mass production and commercialization of electric vehicles in the near future.
OLEV is different from traditional battery-powered electric vehicles in that it houses an onboard device that picks up electricity from power lines installed under the road. The purpose of the battery is reduced to emergency situations where power lines are not installed. An OLEV prototype is operated in Seoul Grand Park. The technology renders the vehicle to operate a battery size one-fifth of its competitors at a third of the cost.
The OLEV was highly publicized, and received much attention from not only domestic publications, but also from CNN, New York Times, USA Today, Reuters, Sankei Shimbun, and others. It is also scheduled to make an appearance this December on the Discovery channel show, Into the Future. A booth dedicated to the OLEV was presented during the G20 Summit to show Korea’s cutting-edge green transportation technology and also received positive feedback.
The OLEV project started last year as the vanguard for next-generation research in green growth for the Korean economy. It is one of the two principal research projects that KAIST has pursued in recent years, the other being the Mobile Harbor project. Despite criticism from certain sectors, the OLEV project is popularly regarded as the technology that would eventually address many problems associated with the automotive industry, such as rising fuel costs and pollution.