Porsche-grade technology will trickle down to the Kia range during the 2020s. The South Korean company is planning to launch no less than 11 electric cars globally by 2025, and it confirmed some will come with an 800-volt charging system that promises to slash charging times while reducing the drivetrain's weight.
As of writing, the only series-produced model equipped with 800-volt technology is the Taycan; the production version of the Audi E-Tron GT concept will get it, too. Kia plans to bring it to the masses when it releases its next-generation electric cars on the European market in 2021. It hasn't detailed the models yet, but it revealed they will be built on a platform developed specifically to underpin EVs. One will "blur the boundaries between passenger and sport utility vehicles," a not-so-subtle hint that the segment-bending Imagine concept (pictured) unveiled in 2019 is headed to production. An earlier, unverified report claims Rimac will help Kia make it a reality.
Building electric cars on a purpose-designed platform represents a stunning about-face for the brand. Its two battery-powered models, the Niro EV and the Soul EV, are variants of gasoline-powered models. Kia is also developing battery technology that promises to unlock up to 310 miles of driving range. It hopes the investments it's making will convince a growing number of buyers to give up gasoline once and for all.
Taking this not-inexpensive route makes integrating technology like an 800-volt charging system much easier. Kia also wants to bring electric cars to the masses, so it will also offer 400-volt charging (which is widely available in 2020) to keep costs in check. It predicted motorists who drive more will pay extra for the 800-volt system, because it will deliver "sub-20-minute high-speed" charging times when plugged into a compatible station, while those who don't suffer from range anxiety will be able to save money by selecting a 400-volt system.
"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," said Pablo Martinez Masip, the director of product planning and pricing for Kia's European division. He added both systems can be charged at home or in public.
Kia called Europe "the focal point for EV sales growth worldwide," a statement which reflects the immense pressure government regulations are putting on companies all over the automotive spectrum to reduce their fleet-wide CO2 emissions. Most of the 11 electric cars it plans to introduce worldwide will be sold across the pond, but the firm is also thinking globally. It's targeting global annual sales of 500,000 battery-powered models by 2026. It hasn't revealed where the United States stands in its broader electrification plans, however.