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Kia Australia set to map electric future

Fits in: Kia’s new plug-in Optima Sportswagon might be one of the South Korean company’s electrified vehicles considered for this market from late 2018.

Electrified vehicles finally on the product planning horizon at Kia Australia

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Kia logo22 Nov 2017

KIA’S electric future in Australia is likely to be mapped out at a Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) business planning meeting next week.

Company chief operating officer Damien Meredith told GoAuto that electrified vehicles would be on the agenda at the internal meeting, potentially formulating plans to roll out at least one such vehicle on the Australian market.

“I think we will have a strong strategy in place by the end of next year,” he said.

Currently, Kia has two electrified vehicle ranges to choose from – the mid-sized Optima PHEV (plug-in electric vehicle) and Niro small crossover with a choice of hybrid, PHEV and – from next year – full electric powertrains.

These vehicles are already being launched in overseas markets, but so far, KMAu has kept its powder dry, sticking to conventional petrol and diesel powertrains while it waits for buyer acceptance and recharging infrastructure to catch up in Australia.

The company has previously indicated it is likely to take the PHEV route instead of full electric, at least initially, as the mix of petrol and electricity best suits Australian driving conditions.

Although the Niro would offer a full suite of electrified powertrains for customers to choose from, this mid-sized wagon conceptually is close to the Sportage – KMAu’s second-best seller in Australia after the Cerato small car – and potentially cause some confusion.

On the other hand, the plug-in hybrid Optima would fit more neatly into an existing model line.

The Optima Sportswagon – unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March, and now on sale in overseas market such as the United States and the UK, might be favoured as it has a bigger battery – 11.6kWh versus the sedan’s 9.8kWh – and thus a longer battery driving range of 61km versus the sedan’s 53km.

A PHEV Sportswagon would most likely become the Optima range flagship, sitting above the two current petrol-powered variants, the $34,490 (plus on-roads) normally aspirated 2.4-litre Si and $44,490 turbo-charged 2.0-litre GT.

The Optima PHEV’s electric powertrain is mated with a 2.0-litre petrol engine.

The combined output is 152kW – more than the Optima Si’s 138kW but short of the GT sedan’s 180kW.

The Niro PHEV with its 8.9kWh lithium-ion polymer battery has a similar electric driving range to the Optima Sportswagon PHEV – about 60km – before the 77kW/147Nm 1.6 litre petrol engine kicks in.

The Niro EV due next year in overseas markets is expected to share its technology with parent company Hyundai’s new Kona EV that reportedly will get two battery options – 39.2kWh for a 390km range and 64.2kWh for a range of at least 500km.

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