The Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has claimed a world first by deploying electric buses on a commercial route. Previous electric bus operations have all been trials, or in the case of Expo 2010 in Shanghai, free public services. The buses went into service on December 21 after an 18 month development project with Hyundai Heavy Industries and Hankuk Fiber.

The electric coaches serving on the Mt. Namsan circular routes are 11.05 meters long and run up to 83km with a single charge. The lithium-ion battery pack can be fully charged in less than 30 minutes and the bus has a maximum speed of 100 km/h. There's also a regenerative system that reuses energy from brakes when running downhill.

The body is made of a carbon composite material, not of iron plates, which considerably reduces the vehicle's weight while reinforcing durability. The electric buses are also equipped with automatic slant boards for wheelchair users.

The bus is shaped like a peanut and decorated with designs symbolizing the Namsan Tower and landscapes of Mt. Namsan.

SMG has replaced five buses on the Namsan circular routes with electric vehicles. It plans to gradually substitute all 14 buses with electric coaches to minimize any inconvenience of citizens that may be caused by the introduction of the new buses. It also plans to build two more battery chargers on Namsan by March 2011, increasing the number from two to four.

SMG expects that the electric bus service has enabled Seoul City to move one step further toward a "Green-Car, Smart City." SMG has set a goal of putting a total of 120,000 electric vehicles in use in the city by 2020, which will account to 50 percent of all public transport vehicles, 10 percent of sedans and one percent of trucks and vans.