Kia will roll out a 576 horsepower GT variant of its EV6 battery-electric vehicle later this year, giving chase to the high-performance version of the Tesla Model Y. But it’s just one of the all-electric models the South Korean carmaker will bring to the U.S. market this decade.
In all, Kia expects to introduce eight new BEVs by 2029, according to its U.S. sales chief, with those products generating a major share of its volume.
“Thirty percent of our sales will come from electric vehicles by the end of the decade, and we’ll get to 50 percent in the early 2030s,” Eric Watson, Kia Motors America vice president of sales and operations, told trade publication Automotive News.
Vague about details
Kia already has two battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, in its U.S. showrooms: the EV6 launched for the 2022 model year, and the Niro, a small crossover offered in hybrid, plug-in and all-electric packages. The Niro will be completely updated for 2023, the BEV version delivering improved range and performance.
While Kia has been vague about details, it has confirmed that one of the upcoming all-electric models will be a production version of the EV9 concept unveiled at the L.A. Auto Show last November.
As with the brand’s conventional line-up, future BEVs will focus on crossovers, said Watson, noting, “We’re going to be launching these (BEVs) into some of the bigger segments.”
But Kia has also confirmed it is developing two all-electric pickups. Though at least one of those is expected to reach showrooms here, it has not yet said whether both will come to the U.S.
Not all models will reach American showrooms
There will be other BEVs not coming to the States. Kia has now confirmed plans to develop 14 all-electric models by 2027. That marks an acceleration of its electrification program, senior company executives saying they were working on just 11 BEVs a year ago.
The decision to accelerate the program reflects the success Kia is having with the new EV6, as well as the outgoing version of the Niro. BEVs accounted for 6% of its volume through May, slightly ahead of the 5.4% share of the overall automotive industry.
That’s up from just 1% in 2019 and reflects a variety of factors, including increased consumer acceptance of electric drive technology, as well as the rapid increase in the number of all-electric models. Earlier this week, the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year, or NACTOY, jury announced 19 BEVs are included among the 47 new or substantially updated products it will judge this year.
All shapes and sizes
“In the next few years, we’re going to see a rapid doubling of EV sales to consumers,” Watson forecast, with the flood of new products “in all shapes and sizes” a key factor.
The production version of the EV9 will be a significant addition to the list, among the first BEVs to offer three rows of seating. (Sibling brand Hyundai plans to launch a similar product, the Ioniq 7, which also was unveiled at the L.A. show last autumn.)
“The EV9 will open up opportunity for those that need the size of the vehicle, whether it be for hauling kids, going into Costco and loading up all your groceries on a big weekend trip or towing the boat,” Watson told Automotive News.
California to remain EV epicenter
Though BEV sales are clearly on the rise, Watson cautioned that demand will continue to be centered in coastal regions, California in particular.
“Why it’s going to take us till the early 2030s to get to 50% and beyond is the building of the charging infrastructure, which will take both public and private partnerships,” he said. President Joe Biden, who set a target of 50% U.S. BEV sales by 2030, hopes to kickstart demand in all parts of the country.
He plans to invest billions of dollars from last year’s infrastructure bill to help set up a network of 500,000 U.S. chargers by the end of the decade. He also is seeking an increase in federal incentives for EV buyers, but that measure remains stalled in the U.S. Congress.