Wireless Charging of Electric Bus in Gumi

The biggest problem of electric vehicles is their battery. Whereas it seems like the capacity cannot be extended, anymore other more creative ways have to be explored. At Kojects, we introduced the battery-swapping method but there’s another method in development for Korean vehicle: Wireless charging through magnetic fields, which are directly beneath the asphalt surface of the street. This system is called “OLEV” and the world’s first system of that kind started commercial operation on last Thursday in Gumi, a city close to Daegu. This post is going to explain what OLEV means and why Gumi was chosen to be the first city.

OLEV stands for “On-Line Electric Vehicles” and basically these are vehicles that get their energy (or batteries charged) wirelessly. The power is transmitted through magnetic fields embedded in the roads. In Korea KAIST (one of the top universities, based in Daejeon) is the leading research center for this technology. They already operate OLEV-shuttle buses on their campus and a tourist train, which runs at the Seoul Grand Park since 2010. Last week, KAIST started officially the experiment in Gumi.

Development of OLEV begun 2009 at KAIST and in 2010 they already had the first prototypes ready. In October 2012, the technology advanced so far that power transfer efficiency reached 75%. This rate is enough for commercial usage. Speed of vehicles or weather conditions don’t constrain the power transfer at all. The greatest thing is that this technology reduces the size of battery to one third or one fifth of usual batteries for electric vehicles. This saves a lot of space and it makes the vehicle lighter, too. The government is funding the whole project and  60 billion KRW (around 53 million USD) from the government as funding. The vehicles look like the electric bus at Namsan:

OLEV Electric Bus

(Source: KAIST)


Why Gumi?

According to KAIST, Gumi was selected because it has a good electrical infrastructure and the city government was very supportive towards the project. Besides that, Gumi tries to establish an image of a science city. Later in the post you’ll see a map of Gumi and half of the city is an industrial complex with a lot of high-tech and IT industries. Gumi is also called “Korea’s Silicon Valley”. If you look at a map of Gumi, you’ll see a lot of trees along the trees. That was part of a measure with the name “Carbon zero city”.  Through planting 6.02 million trees Gumi became the first city in Korea of that program. Unfortunately, Gumi was lately in the news for chemical leaks (a large one in 2012 and one more in 2013). In the incident in 2012  an explosion killed several people and the chemical spill affected health of 3,000 people.

Routes in Gumi

2 OLEVs are going to run ten times per day through the city. Here you can see the bus route (purple line), 24 km through the city:

I sincerely hope that the operation of the OLEV is successful. Than soon other cities will follow and Korea has a great technology to export. I believe that the crucial factor for electric vehicles is the power supply and for now, OLEV seems like the best solution.



Resources and Related Links: KAIST News | KAIST OLEV Project | WSJ Korea | Gumi City | Gumi Chemical Leak

About This Author

Co-Author of Kojects. Interested in Sustainable Transportation, Urbanism and Korea.


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  • […] has, since August 2013, two bus lines that are operating electric buses – which in and of itself is not that amazing, but the electric batteries of these buses are […]

    Transit Curiosities | devonintransit 3 years ago Reply

  • It is now almost two years since these trials began. How are they progressing?

    Is all going well? Is the project being expanded to other buses in Gumi?

    Although induction charging of stationary buses is used in several cities in Europe and the USA, Gumi is the only city that I know of where the buses use induction whilst in motion.


    Simon 2 years ago Reply

    • Hello Simon,

      sorry for the late reply! It’s difficult to find news on the topic.

      It seems that the OLEV works fine. Officially the trial run is over and now the bus operate as regular service. A new OLEV bus model is in development (news from January 2015).

      Nikola 2 years ago Reply

  • […] OLEV electric bus! OLEV stands for “Online Electric Vehicle” and it was developed by KAIST. Media outlets reported that Sejong City bought an OLEV […]

    Sejong City, the Korean Dream 2 years ago Reply

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