Kia sees electric vans as key products for mobility, autonomous tech

Kia is betting big on electric vans, and it’s jumping in with plans to build a new factory within its existing Hwaseong, South Korea, manufacturing complex dedicated to the production of them.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2023, with vehicle production scheduled to start in the second half of 2025, Kia said Wednesday. It’s targeting 100,000 units per year initially, with an eventual increase to 150,000 units annually.

The vehicles manufactured at this factory will be what Kia calls “Purpose Built Vehicles” (PBVs), which is the automaker’s term for electric commercial vehicles.

Rendering of Kia Purpose Built Vehicles

Rendering of Kia Purpose Built Vehicles

 

“We will initially explore new markets with derivative PBV models, then gradually expand our presence in global markets with dedicated PBV models featuring au tonomous driving technologies,” Kia CEO Ho Sung Song said in a statement.

Kia has said that it will kick off its PBV lineup with a continuation of the first-generation Kia Niro EV—essentially as a taxi special

 for Kia’s home market. Future PBV models would potentially fit alongside the seven dedicated EVs Kia plans by 2027—so in addition to models like the EV6, Niro EV, and upcoming electric pickup and EV9 SUV.

Kia Niro Plus - purpose-built electric taxi

Kia Niro Plus – purpose-built electric taxi

The first dedicated PBV model will be a mid-size vehicle, Kia said. Codenamed SW, it will use a new platform called eS designed specifically for the PBVs.

Following the launch of this model in 2025, Kia plans to offer a range of vehicles, including “unmanned micro-sized PBVs,” shuttles, and larger vehicles “that can be used as mobile offices or shops.” All PBVs will feature over-the-air (OTA) update capability, Kia said.

The PBVs are part of the $25 billion “Plan S” shift to EVs Kia kicked off in 2020. Last year, the automaker updated its sustainability roadmap to include hydrogen and plans for carbon neutrality.