Hyundai Begins Big Rollout of Plug-in Vehicles Over Next Five Years

By · December 27, 2017

2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid

Hyundai plans to introduce as many as five new so-called green cars in the next five years, according to Lee Ki-sang, the company’s senior vice-president in charge of electric vehicles. Most of them are expected to be pure electric cars. Within eight years, it will offer as many 38 vehicles that are powered by electric, hydrogen, or hybrid powertrains, according to statements from executives earlier this month.

Most immediately, the 2018 Kia Niro Plug-In goes on sale in the coming weeks. It has a range of 26 miles on electricity alone before the gasoline engine takes over, with a total gas-electric driving range of 560 miles. The 2018 Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid starts at $27,900 for the base LX trim-with the crossover’s price rising to $34,500 for the top-of-the-line EX Premium trim. It’s eligible for a $4,543 federal tax credit, in addition to state and local incentives.

Hyundai will offer an all-electric Kona SUV in about 2019. The Kona, a small SUV crossover with bold styling, will first be introduced as a gas model in the US in March 2018. Industry analysts believe the Kona EV will be equipped with a 50 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which could push its range beyond 200 miles on a single charge. The price for the all-electric Kona is expected to be less than $40,000.

Hyundai currently sells the 124-mile Ioniq Electric—as well as the 93-mile Kia Soul EV, which is available in California and some east coast cities. The company sells plug-in hybrid versions of its popular Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima models. Hyundai also announced this week that the price for the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid begins at $24,950.

Hyundai said its Genesis luxury brand could get an all-electric model with more than 300 miles of range by about 2021. In a September interview with Australia’s, Genesis CEO Manfred Fitzgerald said that electric powertrains will help create a “level playing field” among makers of high-performance luxury vehicles. “Everybody is capable of doing an electric motor and putting it in a car, so the performance values will almost be the same,” he said. Partly due to the expected wide adoption of electric powertrains in the auto industry, Fitzgerald said that the company will not develop a standalone performance sub-brand.

Ninety-Percent of Sales by 2025

Bloomberg reported that Hyundai’s ambitious shift to electric cars is a response to competitors—such as Daimler, General Motors, and Volkswagen—which recently announced plans to produce entire lineups of plug-in vehicles. “Hyundai should have become a first mover of EVs, but it is still staying as a fast follower,” said Kim Phil-soo, a professor of automotive engineering at Daelim University near Seoul. “Hyundai is late by about three years,” he said.

Hyundai’s Lee said that electric cars could account for 90 percent of new-car sales after 2025, that is, if new battery tech develops. But he also cast doubt on the future economics of battery-powered vehicles. “Not a single ingredient is going in a positive direction in terms of pricing,” stated Lee. “So far battery prices have been declining at a rapid pace, but the pace will moderate significantly or maintain the status quo by 2020.” Hyundai is among the handful of auto companies—most notably Toyota and BMS—working to introduce a next-generation solid-state lithium battery by around 2020.

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