Hyundai–Kia Group Plans Blitz Attack Into Electrified Vehicles

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Hyundai was a late bloomer in the fuel efficiency game, only bringing its Sonata Hybrid to market in 2010, the same year as the third generation of the incumbent Toyota Prius arrived on the scene. Since then, the two paths have diverged, with Toyota running off towards hydrogen fuel cell bliss while Hyundai continues to explore fuel efficiency.

Hyundai was not content with just a hybrid drivetrain. Plowing forward towards the future, it developed a new platform with hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full battery-electric versions of the newly minted Hyundai Ioniq, which it put into the spotlight for the first time at the New York International Auto Show.

The Hybrid/Plugin Hybrid/Battery Electric Hyundai Ioniq | Image courtesy Hyundai

And Hyundai has no plans to let up this crazy, accelerated rampage of R&D. Auto News recently broke the story of the new Hyundai and sister company Kia masterplan to plow straight on towards the future with plans to introduce 26 hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and fully electric vehicles by 2020.

Hyundai and Kia are going all in on this bet to not only lead the charge towards the next generation of automobiles but, critically, in doing so, they plan to head up the race towards reduced emissions, driving reductions in advance of forecasted policy changes. If Hyundai and Kia ever had the opportunity to throw down at a game of Texas hold ’em, this would be the hand where they threw down and went all in because that’s exactly what’s going down.

The blitz approach is comprised of 12 hybrids, 6 plug-in hybrids, 2 battery-electric vehicles, and 2 fuel cell electric vehicles split between the two megabrands. With Hyundai already proudly rocking the Sonata Hybrid and Sonata Plugin Hybrids, with rumors of a new electric brand dubbed “AE” being spun off, it’s anyone’s guess where the new models will surface, but it stands to reason that Ioniq is included in the count, having just arrived on the scene.

Detroit Concept Teaser #1
Kia Telluride Plug-In Hybrid | Image courtesy Kia

Kia, on the other hand, has been sporting the Soul EV with its 93 miles of all-electric range (AER) for a few months now and has garnered glowing reviews across the board. Kia is also getting in on the plug-in hybrid game, with two completely new versions this year — with the Telluride PHEV and the Optima PHEVs having had their respective covers blown in the early months of the year.

The man in charge of the plan to green up the pair is Lee Ki-Sang, Senior Vice President of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Eco Techology Center. He shared that sales of electrified cars account for an anemic 1% of global sales across the two brands. While current sales are terrible, the flip side of that same coin is that there is really only one direction for electrified sales to go — up.

In a curious overlap, the strategy for driving volume of electrified vehicle sales (and, more importantly, making them profitable by 2020) has borrowed the Ioniq moniker and is called “Project Ioniq,” as announced at the Geneva Motor Show. The borrowed name also speaks to the intention to share and reapply as much common technology between the two brands and between platforms within the brands as possible. Standardizing the number of new parts that have to be developed to simplify the overall supply chain and manufacturing process is a key philosophy within Project Ioniq.

The journey promises to be fraught with challenges as Hyundai and Kia charge into unfamiliar electrified territory, but as with any move into a new business segment, the risk parallels an equal or greater opportunity if they do it right. Getting into the market first isn’t just a GM idea, and now Hyundai & Kia want pieces of the pie … but can they deliver?

Time will tell, but if history is any indicator, Hyundai had to move quickly to successfully bring the handful of hybrids and plug-in hybrids to market that are selling like hotcakes today, and that seems to bode well for the future. I know I’ll be watching.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

Kyle Field has 1638 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Field

39 thoughts on “Hyundai–Kia Group Plans Blitz Attack Into Electrified Vehicles

  • This is great. We need all automakers to produce only electric cars. This will bring the price down through mass production, clean up the air in our cities, and hopefully allow us to stop all offshore oil drilling. As 2015 was the hottest year on record, and the effects of Global Warming intensify, along with the shameful explosion on the Horizon oil rig that killed 11 people, and ecological disaster that followed, we need to leave all dirty fossil fuels in the ground. The faster we can electrify all cars and busses, the quicker we can do this.

    • Global Warming goes by climate change now. Too many fluctuations up and down. Agree though…oil=poison across the board. Poison air, poison water, poison cars, poison economies…not to mention the wars we fight over it.
      Let’s get rid of oil so we can focus on what’s important and spend all our time fighting over religion or something (joking).

      • Global warming and climate change are two different things. “Global warming” refers to the overall temperature increase of the Earth system, caused by the anthropogenic increase in atmospheric CO2, which is relatively simple physics. “Climate change” refers to the effect of that warming on the Earth’s climate, which is much more complex.

        • “Both Terms Have Long Been Used

          The argument “they changed the name” suggests that the term ‘global warming’ was previously the norm, and the widespread use of the term ‘climate change’ is now. However, this is simply untrue. For example, a seminal climate science work is Gilbert Plass’ 1956 study ‘The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change’ ​”​

  • I don’t like the fact that there is not a pure EV platform being discussed. Without a Frunk, Trunk, high performance, low COG, high range, supercharging, etc…how can an all Electric Ioniq with a price tag in the 30s, compete with Model 3?

    • By having a normal face, normal dashboard, and pay-as-you-go CHAdeMO charging.

      • comparing in production low spec, tiny battery, horrible performing EV with a non production, long range, high performance EV is kind of absurd.

        Superchargers >>>>>>>> crappy, low power, and non existent CHAdeMO network.

        • A “tiny” battery can be swapped for a big battery when density improves. And battery density is improving every month.

          Not every car needs insane mode.

          The CHAdeMO network is expanding.

          • which car makers let you swap batteries for higher density ones? NONE. This car is a joke. The Bolt destroys it from an EV perspective. The Volt destroys it, and the Model 3 obliterates it. Hyundai is way behind the curve here.

          • Tesla is offering (will offer, I forgot which) battery swaps for the Roadster.

          • Why do you have to get permission from a car firm.

            I need no permission to paint my car yellow and need no permission to install a bigger battery in a Volt.

      • I thought I had read they were thinking about changing to the CCS standard?

        • Level 3 charging standards are irrelevant. That was an early lesson for me after moving from the Leaf to the Tesla. Level 4 / Supercharging works…extremely well. Level 3 / Fast charging is painful across the board. 30 minutes for a max of 64 miles is not functional. It’s barely a stop gap solution.
          But hey, let’s start by building the cars that will get people excited about EVs…then the markets will demand more Level 4 charging…aftermarket solutions will pop up.
          The fact that other automakers aren’t building Level 4 charging or even cars that are capable of it speaks to the fact that their leadership don’t drive EVs. At Tesla, they do. Such brilliant foresight from so early on.

          • I read your article in August. Looks like great stuff. I’m curious to see how that market evolves. When I drove through western Kansas on the way into Colorado, there wasn’t much out there. That’s actually where I spent my near years this year lol.

          • Thanks

          • Yes. A formula? If you can get two hours or more of driving for a half hour of charging, you can get somewhere. That means more than 120 miles in a half hour charge. Thats a bare minimum. Better 180 miles. That fits with normal stops required so there is no real loss of time.

          • I completely agree. The Tesla solution was functional for my admittedly extremely long trip. Faster would be better but not absolutely necessary.

          • Its wonderful to share with those that get it. No need to recharge faster than a human can do. 🙂

  • It looks a weird and chaotic strategy to try everything with a huge number of new models and hope something will stick. Success usually comes from focus and choice.

    • True. Hyundai and Toyota both going for fuel cell cars?

      Destined to fail.

      • I think fuel cell cars would be perfect for a reality show for hunting big foot or ghosts. Imagine all the extra drama you could add looking for a working hydrogen fueling station.

        • Ok folks, we’re out on the prowl looking for big foot. Oh wait, no, we’re going to have to take a detour. We just received a tip that an even more elusive find is just 50 miles from us. That’s right – we are coming up on a hydrogen fueling station. Get your cameras folks, it’s going to be good.

      • At least Hyundai has one all electric planned. Toyota completely dropped the ball.

        • Honda too.

        • What do you think Honda and Toyota execs are thinking about hydrogen now that the 3 has over 325,000 orders, LOL?
          Probably same as VW. They are saying ‘but our batteries only go a short range”.

          • I’m really hoping they are taking it seriously. Hydrogen just doesn’t seem like a good option on so many levels compared to battery electric cars.

          • I am seriously concerned about whether there are other volume long distance battery sources for the competing companies. If not, we could be waiting a while for the other battery companies to catch up.

        • Toyota and Honda together have half of the top 10 selling models in North America. 3 of the other 5 are big pickups. This has been the case for decades. Toyota and Honda have a very high degree of confidence in themselves and probably continue to look at all this as a fad.

          German automakers have had huge achtung! moments in their big segments and I’d expect that they’re wide awake by now. Expect interesting things.

          Detroit continues churning out big pickups as fast as they can make them and taking the money to the bank – until someone has a real, competitive electric pickup, they’ll only dabble in the EV market.

          Hyundai is a wild card, IMHO. These announcements could be compliance / greenwashing. Alternatively, they could be running a serious market test and manufacturing pilot and use that experience to come out 3 years from now with an aggressive and optimized strategy.

          • VIA is the only company I know of that is looking at consumer trucks, not delivery vehicles. But they are still a few years out before anything comes to market. It will be interesting to see if they will be as successful as Telsa in that segment. Or maybe the Model Y needs to be an F150 replacement.

          • Yes! Or even a CRV replacement

          • I shudder to think the Y might be a huge monster. I’m hoping for a small SUV based on the Model 3…

    • Agreed. This seems to be taking existing models designed from the ground up for ICEs and throwing some drive train electrification in them.

      The big questions are: 1) will the PHEV be priced comparable to the ICE model? If not, sales will be small like today’s compliance cars, I predict.
      2) will the range of the EVs move away from the current 100-ish mile range like the Soul, and to the 200-ish mile range? and at what price?

      These may be compliance cars and a little bit of market research. If they price to sell volumes, then they might sell a lot of PHEVs, which would promote electric driving.

  • Just give me the rear-seat headroom and leg room specs, and whether it will have collision avoidance.

    • Ok, it’s got collision avoidance with automatic braking.
      Now, we need the specs for rear seat headroom and legroom.

      • Spend a lot of time in the back seat Mike? I don’t think this is the right car class if you do. A used Model S would be a good start…or another full size sedan. Prius/Ioniq/Insight are all on the small side.

  • The funny part will be when the classic auto makers start advertising their EVs, and Tesla sales go up further.


    Tesla Motors doesn’t advertise and as soon as you research EVs on your own because you saw an EV ad on TV, you quickly find out that theirs are so much better than the others it’s not even a choice anymore.

    It’s like whenever anyone anywhere talks about an EV, Tesla simply gets free advertising.

    Well played again Elon.

    • I’m debating trading in the Model S for a Bolt for a year or so to give you guys solid context and real world reviews. I’m expecting that it would be a brutal transition but hoping to be impressed by at least a few things if I do end up going that route.

  • Hyundai also sells int the China market, and may be positioning for a move there. China has put a lot of new rules and demands in place for EVs.

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