Kia flicks switch on electric vehicle expansion

Korean car maker Kia to launch seven new electrics by 2027.

Korean car maker Kia is set to follow its stablemate Hyundai into the burgeoning electric vehicle space, announcing plans for seven new dedicated battery electric models by 2027.

The company said the initiative represented the first stage in its quest to have battery electric vehicles (BEVs) account for 25% of its global sales by 2029.

Kia currently sells about three 3 million vehicles per year in more than 190 countries, meaning a conservative target would see it building about  750,000 BEVs before the end of the decade. 

The car maker doesn’t have an EV in its Australian range at present, but stablemate Hyundai sells BEV versions of the Kona SUV and Ioniq small car and has recently begun a trial of 20 NEXO hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEV) in Canberra.

While Hyundai is pushing rapidly ahead with FCEV technology, and has its own ambitious plans to sell one million EVs by 2025, Kia’s plans are focused exclusively on BEVs, with the omission of any reference to FCEVs a possible sign it intends to leave development of the technology exclusively to Hyundai. 

Meanwhile, Kia’s first dedicated BEV is due to launch in 2021 and will provide a pointer to the company’s new design direction. 

The company revealed an early sketch of the new BEV range during an event at its Hwasung plant in South Korea, with details of the strategy announced by Kia President and CEO Ho Sung Song (pictured). 

“Kia has sold more than 100,000 BEVs worldwide since the introduction of our first mass-produced BEV in 2011, the Kia Ray EV," said CEO Song. 

"Since then, we have started to introduce a range of new BEVs for global markets and announced plans to accelerate this process in the years ahead. By refocusing our business on electrification, we are aiming for BEVs to account for 25% of our total worldwide sales by 2029.”

Kia President and CEO Ho Sung Song.

The company said it would work with its worldwide dealer network and partner with EV charging companies to expand EV charging infrastructure worldwide.
 
Kia’s “Plan S” strategy announced at the start of 2020 outlined plans to transition its future businesses to focus on BEVs and mobility solutions.

The strategy calls for the auto maker to expand its BEV line-up to 11 models by 2025, and for BEVs to account for 20% of the brand’s total vehicle sales in advanced markets over the same period. 

The first of the seven dedicated BEVs to be launched by 2027 is a model code-named CV, which is scheduled to be revealed in 2021 and which a statement from Kia said, was, “destined for many regions globally”. 

It’s not clear if this also means Australia, but specialist automotive websites have previously stated Kia Australia would launch its first BEV in 2021, so it seems likely it will be this CV model. 

A statement from Kia said the CV model would “encapsulate the brand’s attitude towards innovation and change, presenting a new design direction that signifies Kia’s transition to an EV-focused business strategy”.

It said the company was planning to respond to market demands “by offering diversified product types, with a range of models suitable for urban centres, long-range journeys, and performance driving”.

By adapting its new Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), Kia claims it will be able to offer vehicles with best-in-class interior spaciousness and that the company was also seeking to innovate with its sales practices for EVs. 

The brand said it was exploring the creation of subscription services to offer a diversified buying option for customers, as well as EV battery leasing and rental programs, and other “second-life” battery-related businesses.

Kia also announced plans to expand its global after-service infrastructure for EVs, with a significant increase in the number of dedicated EV work bays in Korea and other markets, as well as plans to develop its own programs to train EV maintenance professionals.

The company also announced new efforts to expand electric charging infrastructure by adding 1500 new EV chargers in its home market by 2030, plus an additional 2400 chargers in Europe and about 500 in North America. 

It is also pursuing strategic alliances with the likes of IONITY, a European company specialising in high-speed EV charging. There was no news on any plans to develop Australia’s fledgling EV charging network.  

Finally, Kia referenced its efforts to help drive the uptake of EVs through active collaborations with governments and engaging in new commercial partnerships, such as its recent involvement with start-up Purple M, which specialised in providing customised e-mobility services based on EVs.