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E-mobility doesn’t have to be boring: Kia

Pop star: Kia’s Pop concept from the 2010 Paris motor show was one of the company’s first EV concepts.

Kia likely to take a more characterful route with EVs, future mobility offerings

Kia logo18 Jan 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in DETROIT

KIA’S future electric vehicles will be more than just “a box on wheels”, with the South Korean car-maker looking to inject some personality and character into its e-mobility solutions.

While Kia appears to be lagging behind some of its rivals when it comes to electrified and autonomous technologies, Hyundai Motor Group president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer told Australian journalists at this week’s Detroit motor show that the company is developing future hi-tech offerings.

When asked if Kia would produce something similar to Toyota’s e-Palette concept shown at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Mr Schreyer said a Kia mobility solution would not be boring.

“I don’t know if it is the Kia of the future but we are, in general in the Hyundai Motor Group, we are working on this kind of thing too,” he said. “But I always think, everybody says ‘a box on wheels’. It doesn’t need to be a box. It could be a bowl or a thing, or whatever. It could be something with character.”

Mr Schreyer highlighted one of its earlier concepts from the 2010 Paris motor show as an example of what the company is capable of.

 center imageLeft: Hyundai Motor Group president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer

“I always use the example of the London taxi, which is a very practical car as a taxi but there is a lot of character. What you say a mobility solution thing, if it is two, four, six – however many seats – can still have a character to it like we did some years ago.

“We did the Pop as an electric car, it was a show car. With this one we wanted to show that not all electric cars are boring, serious objects. We wanted to make something with a twinkle in the eye. And I think these types of cars can also be a landmark in a big city, like the London taxi is.”

He rejected the suggestion that if an e-mobility vehicle was to be produced in partnership with a technology or ride-sharing company such as Uber, it would need to be more conservative and rational.

“Why does it need to be boring? Why does everybody assume it is a boring … box.

Why shall we give up?” he said.

“When you build a house it also follows some purposes but it has different kind of furniture, a different character, depending on the person. Even if you rent a flat or an apartment it has different furniture. I don’t think it needs to be like a boring literal world.”

Kia announced at CES earlier this month that it will offer 16 electrified models by 2025 that includes a fuel-cell EV in 2020, while confirming that it will start Level 4 autonomous vehicle testing in 2021, and will have connected car technology across its range by 2030.

Kia Motors Europe chief designer Gregory Guillaume said in Detroit this week that dedicated EV platforms afforded more freedom when it comes to the design of passenger cars and SUVs.

“Think about it. If you get platforms that are built for electric only, you are free of that (normal constraints),” he said. “As for us as designers, we could, on a Forte, get proportions of a Stinger or whatever we want.

“If you don’t want to be rear-wheel drive, if you say it is safer to have front, you could still get the proportion. You don’t have the engine up there with the cooling and other things. It is going to open new possibilities, it is going to be an interesting era for us.”

Kia has a number of electrified offerings in its global arsenal, including the Niro crossover, Soul EV, and hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Optima, but is yet to confirm when it will launch its first electrified vehicle in Australia.

However, as GoAuto has reported, Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith has said that the local arm is likely to have “a strong strategy in place by the end of next year”.

While it is yet to be confirmed, the plug-in hybrid version of the Optima Sportswagon is on the cards for an Australian launch.

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