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No hydrogen on the radar for Kia

Electrifying: The Niro SUV opens the door for the EV6 and future electrification endeavours, just not hydrogen.

Local Kia bosses back EVs over FCEVs, market demand to be determining factor

24 May 2021

AS HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) charges forward with the development and gradual rollout of its hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), Kia Australia (KAU) is taking a more laissez faire approach to the alternative fuel type but says it could “easily switch on” the technology if the market deemed it necessary.


Speaking to GoAuto at the virtual media launch of the new Niro electrified SUV, KAU product planning general manager Roland Rivero said a hydrogen-powered vehicle was not immediately on the radar for the brand but thanks to its part in developing the technology with Hyundai, it would not be difficult to tap into.


“Fundamentally, Namyang (Hyundai Motor Group HQ) is not biased between red and blue, Namyang just looks at ‘this is the family’,” he said.


“The hydrogen fuel cell technology’s been developed by Namyang and right now the application has only been on the one side, but at any given point in time if market dictated, and demand dictated that hydrogen fuel cell was something that Kia should also bring to the table, it wouldn’t be difficult for it to be passed on to the red team.


“Mr Song’s (Kia CEO) feeling at the moment that the demand would suggest EV is the way to go; that’s the horse to back at this point in time, but should the market suggest otherwise, we could easily switch on the hydrogen fuel cell technology and powertrain for Kia products because Namyang’s done all the hard work and the research already for it, and applied it to the blue team.”


Hyundai’s first FCEV, the Nexo, arrived on Aussie shores back in March, available exclusively through a lease program aimed initially at fleet customers with an expansion in the second half of the year to accommodate private customers as well.


The ‘blue team’ has certainly been making a lot of noise about its hydrogen exploits in recent months however the biggest revelation came in April when global executives confirmed its N performance division was exploring possible applications of the fuel type, including an innovative new blend with battery-electric technology.


Whether or not anything comes of the project remains to be seen, let alone if any of it makes it across to the ‘red team’ with KAU chief operating officer Damien Meredith predicting a fair bit of overlap between the various fuel types, both fossil and alternative.


“What’s going to happen, no-one really knows but from our point of view obviously, there are some trend lines that are occurring,” he told GoAuto.


“We know that electrification is going to continue to grow, what we don’t know is by how much, and we don’t know whether or not alternate fuels may come into play, i.e. fuel cell technology, LPG might make a comeback in Australia; we’re surrounded by LPG but never taken advantage of it.


“So there’s still I think variables in play that haven’t been put in concrete yet to give us a really clear picture of what’s going to happen in five to 10 years’ time.


“In my view there’s still a place for ICE (internal combustion engines), it will obviously be a bit like the small car market; continue to decline but still be there, so it’s going to be interesting.”


Mr Meredith also definitively confirmed the EV6 would be the next electric/electrified vehicle to arrive Down Under before the hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions of the Sorento arrive in 2022.

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