Kia to launch new electric ‘Purpose Built Vehicles’

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The Korean car maker will set up a new factory for electric ‘Purpose Built Vehicles’ as early as 2026.

Kia has announced plans to set up a new production site for a new range of purpose-built electric vans, as part of a wider remit to launch an array of battery-powered vehicles before 2030.

Building on from Kia’s “Plan S” business strategy, which has seen the company commit to launching no less than 11 fully electric passenger cars worldwide by 2027, Kia will start building a new factory for what it describes as “Purpose Built Vehicles”, or PBVs, by summer 2023. The new plant is expected to be finished at the earliest by 2026, and initially have the capacity to produce around 100,000 PBVs per year.

kia electric vans

The first vehicle to roll off the new plant’s production line will be a mid-size vehicle, which is currently only known by its “SW” project name. However, Kia did specify when it outlined its Plan S strategy in March 2022 this new vehicle would be available in a selection of body styles, which would allow the PBV to fulfil roles as either a delivery van or a ride-hailing passenger shuttle.

As explained by the Kia CEO Ho Sung Song at the Plan S strategy announcement, the company is also interested in launching a self-driving robotaxi version of its SW PBV. No definitive release window for this SW derivative has been revealed yet, though Kia has suggested this robotaxi model will potentially be capable of level 4 autonomy – meaning there will still be physical controls like pedals and a steering wheel inside, but the vehicle will be able to drive itself in controlled areas without human intervention.

Kia’s PBV plans go beyond its mid-size ute that’s due in 2025, too. Using the same ‘skateboard’ technology underpinning the SW, Kia intends to launch a selection of purpose-built electric vehicles in a variety of shapes and sizes. These, Kia claims, will range from small unmanned delivery vehicles to larger passenger shuttles and PBVs that will allegedly be big enough to be used as mobile shops and office spaces.

These electric PBV plans are in addition to the already comprehensive range of electric passenger cars that Kia plans on launching over a similar timeframe. Including the Kia EV6 electric crossover that’s now on sale in the UK, Kia will launch 14 electric vehicles worldwide by 2027. Of that total, seven of them will be exclusively electric, such as the Kia EV9 large SUV that’s due in 2023, with the remaining total consisting of electric cars derived from combustion-powered models like the new second-gen Kia Niro EV.

James Allen

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