The South Korean government said it would provide grants worth KRW23bn (US$21m) for the construction of a testing centre for materials and parts for rechargeable batteries, according to local reports.

The ministry of trade, industry and energy said the grants were in line with government efforts to foster the electric vehicle industry as a new engine of economic growth.

The centre would provide advanced testing infrastructure to local small and medium-sized companies to test materials and parts to be used in the production of batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) and energy storage units.

South Korean exports of rechargeable batteries increased by 1.3% to US$7.5bn last year, due mainly to rising demand for EVs in Europe and in the US, while overall exports fell by 5.4% to US$512.8bn.

Sales of environment-friendly vehicles in the country, including electric and hybrid vehicles and fuel-cell electric vehicles, jumped by 54% to more than 213,000 units in 2020 according to industry data, driven by generous government subsidies and expanding charging infrastructure.