A bespoke, mass-produced hydrogen-powered Kia will go on sale globally within five years, as the firm bids to reduce its average fleet CO2 emissions by 25% from 2014 levels by 2020.
Kia and parent company Hyundai are already pioneers in hydrogen fuel cell technology, with the latter bringing its ix35 fuel cell car to market this year and the firms having produced fuel cell test vehicles in the 1990s. Kia is targeting global sales of 1000 cars a year for its first mass produced hydrogen vehicle in 2020, with the car likely to be paired with a similar launch from Hyundai, and with both sat on a bespoke platform and given unique bodystyles.
“It is not clear what kind of bodystyle the cars will have, but it will be dedicated models rather than using an existing donor car as we do now with the ix35,” said Dr Sae Hoon Kim, head of the firm’s fuel cell research. He cited the example of the Toyota Mirai as highlighting the benefits of a bespoke fuel cell car, most notably because of the ability to design with extra cooling requirements in mind.
Kia says the next-generation hydrogen fuel stack will be similar in size to a 2.0-litre combustion engine, but despite being 15% more compact and lighter will deliver around 10% more performance. Range between refuels is expected to be rated at 500 miles, and top speed at 105mph.
The ambitious CO2 target will result in 70% of the firm’s current line-up of engines being replaced over the next five years, as well as the launch of seven new hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery-electric and fuel cell cars. More efficient “multi-speed” transmissions are also being developed. The total investment in the new projects is reported to be £6.7bn, and Kia says it will create “thousands” of jobs to hit its targets.
In addition, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Kia Optima will go on sale in some markets in mid-2016. While the former will not be sold in the UK, the latter will.