Kia has set out its vision for the transition to a green motoring future

Kia has laid out its strategy for the next five years and it's one that will see both a growing model line-up of electrified vehicles, and ambitious goals for how many of these it will sell. However, this transition doesn't come without trade-offs, as the company is looking to bankroll it by selling more combustion-powered SUVs.

After Hyundai launched its plans for increasing the choice of electrified and full EV models in its stable, it was sister-company, Kia's turn to lay down its plans for the next five years. Set out by Han-Woo Park, Kia Motors' President and CEO, its ambitions are lofty and based around a 'pre-emptive transition to EV business' – which in essence means that it's speeding up its efforts to get such cars to market. Part of the rationale behind this is simply to get ahead of competitors.

New range of BEVs and electrified cars

By 2025, Kia plans to offer a total of 11 pure EVs in line with Hyundai, so you can bet these cars will have plenty in common. This roll-out will happen over time, with the first dedicated EV to be launched next year taking the form of a crossover (likely a small SUV) with a range of around 300 miles and rapid charging offering a sub-20 minutes charge time. A full range of EVs, including SUVs and MPVs, will hit the roads from 2022 onwards.

Amongst its EV range, Kia will be operating two distinct power outputs – 400 and 800V – which we imagine will be available at two distinct price points. The standard 400 volts will likely be most common, but it's also stated that it'll be offering 800 volts on “high-performance dedicated models and derivative models with reasonable pricing”. Given that the Kia Stinger has been favourably compared to the Porsche Panamera, we'd like to think that the Korean brand will be doing its own Taycan-a-like.

Flexing its joint manufacturing muscles alongside Hyundai will be key to achieving its goals, especially when it comes to the sales figures Kia is aiming for. It wants to make a land-grab in the sector to hit 6.6 per cent of global EV market share by 2025, selling 500,000 pure EVs and one million 'eco-friendly' (read hybrid or PHEV) vehicles by 2026.

In developed markets Kia wants 20 per cent of all its sales to be EVs by 2025 – quite a statement of intent. It's concentrating these efforts in Korea, North America, Europe and other such markets where fuel efficiency standards and emissions are being tightened up significantly. It's also continuing its support of IONITY – the Europe-wide rapid charging network, which will clearly come in useful when its 800V-capable cars become available.

September 2020 update

In a late-year update to its plans, Kia has confirmed that it will be releasing seven new EVs across several vehicle segments by 2027. The first of these is codenamed 'CV' and will be revealed in 2021 as the brand's first dedicated, purpose-built EV. We can take a pretty good punt on what form the CV will take; at the launch of Hyundai's IONIQ sub-brand it confirmed its first purpose-built EV, the IONIQ 5, would be a mid-sized SUV. Kia shares its vehicle architecture with Hyundai – including the new E-GMP platform – so it doesn't take a genius to make the link.

With the launch of the CV and subsequent six new EVs, Kia will be taking a new design direction. Sadly the sketch supplied tells us precisely nothing, except for allowing us to infer that Kia's EV-focussed future is less angular and more curvaceous than its current model line-up. Either way, it's good to see Kia actively progressing its plans nine months since they were first revealed.

The ICE trade-off

Like Newton's Third Law, for every action in terms of rolling EVs out to market, Kia has an equal and opposite reaction – in this case looking to keep its shareholders sweet by offsetting the cost with continued investment in, and increasing sales of ICE-powered cars. This is especially applicable to emerging markets including China, Asia-Pacific and India where regulations around emissions aren't as tight. It will, however, be considering entering these markets with EVs “depending on demand”.

Its financial strategy to bankroll the significant investment in EVs and EV technology comes, in part, in increasing the sales volume of highly-profitable, but also more polluting SUVs. Cars such as the Sorento and Sportage will help Kia reach a sales ratio of 60 per cent over the next three years. Again, this is centred on emerging markets where it is aiming to increase the number of ICE cars sold from 770,000 (excluding China) today to 1.05 million by 2025.

Of course, Kia will be working on improving the efficiency of its ICE-powered cars during this time, and the uplift in emerging market volume is offset by the increase in EVs in mature markets. Kia's model forecasts that by 2025, the profitability of its EVs will be on par with its ICE vehicles, enabling it to scale-up production of zero-emissions cars whilst simultaneously keeping the shareholders happy.

Developing in other industries

Aside from its passenger vehicle core business, Kia is diversifying into Purpose Build Vehicles (PBVs), autonomous transport, car sharing and mobility hubs. In short, Kia is looking to develop transportation options by which people who need to get into a city centre can leave their ICE-powered car at such a hub and finish their journey in an EV – whether that is an autonomous PBV or as part of a car share scheme.

Whilst much of this is based around the Asian market, there is some scope for its plans to make the leap to cities across the world as localised clean air becomes as much of a consideration as national emissions standards.

Kia and Hyundai as a unit have also recently announced that they will be investing over £75 million in British start-up, Arrival. This will support both brands' entry into the PBV and commercial markets through the use of Arriva's 'skateboard' EV platform – a modular system which can be scaled for use in everything from small vans to HGVs. 

The Arrival deal will also support Hyundai's ambitions to make hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles more mainstream. An initial part of this will be in supporting Hyundai Hydrogen Mobility – a joint venture between Hyundai and Swiss hydrogen company, H2 Energy which aims to export 1600 hydrogen-powered trucks across the continent.

Discover EV's take

Kia has some big ambitions with its new EV charge. We're particularly looking forward to seeing what the brand comes up with in its 800V, performance-orientated model range. An electric Stinger is something we'd be very keen on – and more to the point the car's long wheelbase would lend itself nicely to the conversion. Of course, offsetting the money it has to spend on EV tech by flogging more ICE-powered cars seems counter-intuitive, but as much as it'd be nice to think that the investment could be absorbed by the multi-billion pound company, the fact is that shareholders have to be kept happy. However, if Kia can reach profitability parity by 2025, it's ultimately a short-term trade-off for a worthwhile gain.


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