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Kia to charge up Australian EV rollout

Ready to charge: The Kia Niro EV was uncovered at this year’s CES and it could be one of the EV models to hit Australian shores in the coming years.

Electric vehicles heading to Kia Australia showrooms in the next three years

Kia logo18 Apr 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) has announced that it will introduce a range of fully electric vehicles to Australia in the next three years and it will not rely on government-backed incentives to sell them.

The South Korean car-maker has been slow to reveal its Australian electrified vehicle strategy and it has previously baulked at importing hybrid and plug-in hybrid models such as the Optima hybrid or Niro SUV.

Speaking with journalists in Melbourne this week, KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith said the car-maker would introduce models that are being developed by its parent company.

“Where we would like to move in the next couple of years is get a stable of EVs in play,” he said.

“The Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) – Hyundai Kia – are pretty advanced in that area. So we will look very seriously at what we can bring in, but we will be committed to an EV strategy.”

When asked if Kia was a step behind some of its mainstream competitors which have already revealed their EV plans, Mr Meredith said: “I don’t think so. We just wanted to wait until there is the right product available to get into the Australian market.”

He added that he saw hybrid technology as an interim strategy and that Kia could skip it given what Hyundai Motor Group has coming in the way of EV models and tech.

Mr Meredith said Kia was not pushing for government-backed financial incentives to help encourage the take-up of electric vehicles.

“We won’t be looking for any support or whatever, we will just go to market with cars we think we can sell.

“Our view (KMAu) is very much … get on with it, sell cars and that’s it.”

This represents a shift in view for the company’s Australian arm, with Mr Meredith telling Australian journalists at last year’s Geneva motor show that government assistance was needed to help lead EV take-up Down Under.

“We have to be commercial smart, but we have got a responsibility to make sure we have got those vehicles coming into the country to drive the change,” he said.

“I will also say that I think when you look at Australia, we need government change to drive that,” he said in March last year.

A number of other manufacturers have called on the federal and state governments to support the rollout of EVs in Australia, not only through incentives such as lower registration fees and taxes, but also to help build a charging network.

So far KMAu and Volkswagen Group Australia are the only major players to suggest that government incentives were not necessary in boosting interest in EVs.

While Mr Meredith said Kia was not expecting to sell EVs in huge numbers in Australia, he cautioned that the increasing uptake of EVs could impact the electricity grid around the country.

“I think we have got to be careful of electric cars and where they are sold, as it might put a bit of pressure on the grid – specific grids around Australia.

It might be alright out west in downtown Mount Druitt but it might be a little different in Mosman.”

It is unclear what EV models Kia will offer in Australia, but it is likely that some of the models are yet to be revealed.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Kia uncovered the EV version of its Niro compact SUV, featuring a 64kWh battery pack and 150kW electric motor, capable of 383 km of driving range.

It also used the show to announce that it would offer 16 electrified models globally by 2025 including an all-new fuel-cell EV in 2020.

Mr Meredith said he was still “a huge fuel-cell advocate”, but added that Australia has been “a bit slow on the infrastructure”.

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