Kia is working on advanced electric vehicles that will feature 800-volt systems.
Electrification technology is evolving at a dizzying pace. Not so long ago, apart from what was on offer at Tesla, people marveled at an electric vehicle offering 200 km of range.
Today, the threshold of respectability is 400 km between charges; the expectations regarding battery capacity, recharging time, power, and so on have similarly jumped.
Often, of course, advances in these domains are found first within the shells of more expensive and luxurious models. The new Porsche Taycan, for example, is currently the only production car with an 800-volt capacity. The production version of the Audi e-tron GT will deliver a similar figure. After that, the brand set to step on the third rung on the podium? Kia.
The South Korean automaker has the ambitious plan to launch 11 electric models worldwide by 2025, and it has confirmed that some of them will be equipped with an 800-volt system. That technology promises to reduce recharging times while bringing down the weight of the powertrain.
Kia wants to introduce the new system when it launches its new generation of electric cars on the European market in 2021. The company has not detailed what those models will be, but it has confirmed they will be built on a platform developed specifically for electric vehicles. One of them will "blur the boundaries between passenger and sport utility vehicles", a clear indication that the Imagine concept unveiled in 2019 will advance into the production phase.
The construction of electrical products on a specially designed platform will be a first for the brand. Its two current all-electric models, the Niro EV and the Soul EV, are electrified variants of pre-existing gas-powered models. Kia is also developing battery technology that promises to deliver up to 500 km of range. The automaker hopes the investments it's making will convince more and more buyers to give up gasoline once and for all.
A dedicated new platform would make it possible to integrate advanced technologies like an 800-volt charging system. That said, Kia will at the same time maintain its value-focused consumer approach, which means we’ll see alongside that a 400-volt charging system that will keep costs down for budget-minded buyers.
The company believes motorists who spend a lot of time on the road will be willing to pay more for an 800-volt system because it will make possible "sub-20-minute high-speed" charging times on a suitable charging station. For others, the 400-volt system will be enough and cost less.
"Certain models, particularly those aimed at more cost-conscious buyers, will offer 400-volt charging capability; 800-volt charging won’t simply be reserved for Kia’s flagship models, however, but where it most closely matches the usage profile of a particular model line," explained Pablo Martinez Masip, director of product planning and pricing for Kia's European division. He also said both systems will be compatible with public charging stations as well as those installed at home.
Kia says it considers Europe "the focal point for EV sales growth worldwide", a reminder of the strong pressure government regulations there are placing on auto companies to reduce CO2 emissions. Most of the 11 electric models it plans to launch around the world will be sold in that market, though the company is also thinking globally. It is, notably, targeting annual sales of 500,000 units worldwide by 2026. However, Kia has not revealed where North America stands in its overall electrification plan.