Over the next three model years, sibling automakers Hyundai and Kia are hedging their bets with seven new battery electrified models and at least one fuel cell vehicle.
The strategy includes four hybrids, two plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and a battery electric vehicle (BEV) for the U.S. market. All seven battery utilizing cars are scheduled to launch between the 2016 and 2018 model years.
Additional alternatively-fueled vehicles in the carmaker’s current fleets include the Kia Soul EV and the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell.
Presently each brand sells a hybrid version of one of its already-established sedans: Kia has the Optima Hybrid (pictured above) and Hyundai sells the Sonata Hybrid. But this new plan will add a dedicated hybrid for each, both of which will be released for 2017.
As observed by Automotive News, other automakers have taken a more staggered approach to add electrified powertrains. After releasing the first Prius in 1997, for example, it took Toyota another 15 years before its plug-in version was offered.
So why has the Korean-based Hyundai Motor Group, which owns both Hyundai and Kia, created such an aggressive EV strategy? According to Hyundai CEO Kim Choong-ho, healthy sales in these segments are vital for the company.
“We will take the lead in the future by raising the competitiveness of our environment-friendly cars like hybrid-only cars, plug-in hybrid cars and fuel cell hydrogen cars,” said Kim.
It isn’t known exactly how the seven new EVs will be divided between Hyundai and Kia, but it appears the two companies won’t be launching identical models.
“They’re going to great lengths to provide differentiation in design,” Kim said.
For Kia, the next EV may be its crossover-sized Niro Hybrid, which was spied testing on Germany’s Nurburgring track. A prototype hybrid from Hyundai has also been spotted recently, with spy photos showing a profile that’s highly suggestive of the Prius.
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“They’re doing hybrids, they’re doing PHEVs, they’re doing pure battery electrics,” said Ed Kim, who heads up AutoPacific’s Industry Analysis operations. Previously, Ed Kim managed product development and strategy for Hyundai. “They’re basically throwing darts at the wall, preparing for the future by having expertise in all of these types of vehicles.”