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Kia unveils new electric cars that can turn into bedrooms

Kia unveiled a compact electric sport-utility vehicle and two concept EVs as it builds out a range of cheaper models to appeal to budget-conscious drivers.

Kia’s EV5, pitched at millennial families, made its debut at a so-called EV Day on Thursday. For the Chinese market, the standard model will come with a 64-kilowatt-hour battery offering 530km of range, while the long-range model’s 88-kilowatt-hour battery will get 720km per charge.

The South Korean models will have slightly smaller batteries and the driving range will be tailored to market demands, the company said.

The EV5 comes with two 31cm screens for instrument displays and infotainment, and a 12.7cm climate control display.

The Chinese version will have a front bench seat, while the rear seat can be folded flat to transform into a bed.

There is also a 4-litre refrigerator and warming unit for storing food and drinks. The cars will be made at factories in China and Korea, with production starting around 2025.

Kia also displayed two concept cars – the EV3, a compact version of its flagship EV9; and the EV4, a four-door sedan that looks more like a sports car.

The three models are part of Kia’s plan to introduce smaller EVs ranging in price from $35,000 to $50,000 to accelerate the widespread adoption of battery-powered cars, the company said. Top-end models will go for up to $80,000.

Kia last month introduced its cheapest EV – the single-seat Ray, which starts at $20,000 and is only available in South Korea.

Tesla started selling its Chinese-made Model Y SUV in Korea earlier this year, priced from about 57 million won ($42,550). With government subsidies, the price drops to about $37,000 in Seoul and as low as $30,000 in some cities that offer extra incentives for EVs.

Smaller EVs are Kia’s “entry to the segment of customers” looking for electric cars with lower prices and charging convenience, chief executive Ho Sung Song told reporters at the EV Day, held in Yeoju city, south-east of Seoul. The car maker aims to sell 1.6 million EVs by 2030.

To meet that target, Kia plans to have eight production facilities by 2025. In Europe, the company will focus on making small- and medium-size EVs, while it will produce mid- and large-sized vehicles in China.

In India, it will focus on “strategically designed EV models tailored for emerging markets”, Mr Ho said, without elaborating.

Kia has to study “very deeply” how to cut EV prices further, he said.

“This is very important for us; how we can make the vehicles below around $25,000 in the market.”

“Maybe in the future, we need some different sales strategies,” such as selling vehicles without a battery, which buyers can then rent, he said.

Prices of batteries, the most expensive part of an EV, are expected to fall to $99 per kilowatt hour by 2025 as technology improves and new lithium reserves are developed, according to an October 4 report by Goldman Sachs Group analysts led by Kota Yuzawa.

He upgraded Kia’s stock to a buy on improving margins as battery costs decline.

Kia and affiliate Hyundai Motor sold about 374,000 EVs in the first eight months of 2023, ranking seventh globally, according to a report from SNE Research.

Their combined market share of the global EV market, including electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, has fallen to 4.3 per cent this year from 5.4 per cent in 2022, due to the strong growth of China’s BYD, the research group said.

Mr Ho said Kia may introduce a compact model EV2 in Europe. The EU has started an investigation into China’s EV subsidies, which could result on tariffs being imposed on made-in-China cars and potentially benefit the South Korean firm.

“EV2 is very unique, very important model for European market,” he said. “EV2 is very European style and it will be produced in Europe.”

Updated: October 26, 2023, 7:52 AM