Korean carmaker Kia is working on a battery-electric version of its just-released Niro Hybrid crossover SUV, while at the same time preparing a new fuel cell vehicle.
The Niro Hybrid recently went on sale in Kia’s home market and Europe but won’t be sold in the U.S. until late this year or early 2017.
Kia doesn’t anticipate SUV demand and sales to peak anytime soon and the company is developing new niche versions and models according to British publication Autocar.
“I don’t know what comes after the SUV,” said Kia group chief creative officer Peter Schreye during an event at Kia’s R&D center in Namyang, South Korea. “I think it’s just what people worldwide want, to sit high and have an overview, to feel protected.”
No details were given about the electric Niro, but it’s anticipated to use components from the Kia Soul EV.
The Soul EV’s 27-kilowatt-hour battery could be scaled to 45 kWh and could easily provide 155 or so miles of electric driving range.
On the fuel cell side, Kia’s powertrain development center is developing its own next-generation fuel cell stack to be five percent more efficient and offer 10 percent greater stack performance, despite being around 15 percent lighter and 15 percent lower in volume, compared to its current fuel cell stack employed in test vehicles.
Although fuel cell development efforts are shared with Kia’s parent company, Hyundai Motors, components such as the fuel cell stack are not identical.
It is likely, however, that Kia will follow Hyundai’s footsteps and the fuel cell vehicle will be a sport utility vehicle like the Tucson Fuel Cell.
The Tucson Fuel Cell is rated by the EPA with a 265-mile range. Kia says it can improve those performance numbers by increasing the power density of the fuel cell stack.
The most likely Kia vehicle choice for a fuel cell is the Sportage SUV — the bigger size means there’s more room to pack in the fuel cell and batteries needed for this kind of powertrain.
Kia gave no dates for the launch of the electric Niro or the fuel cell vehicle, but it’s possible a Niro EV could be on the road in 2017 followed by a fuel cell car in 2020.