They’re just concept vehicles. For now, at least, but Headlight.News has confirmed that Kia is all but certain to put into production the two prototypes it revealed at the LA Auto Show, the EV3 crossover and EV4 sedan. Both will help the South Korean carmaker appeal to a more budget-constrained mainstream audience than the current Kia EV6 SUV.
Among the various cars, trucks and crossovers that made their debut at the LA Auto Show this week, few drew the visceral response of two Kia battery-electric concept vehicles, the EV3 and EV4. Both show how Kia hopes to create more entry-level EV offerings that can appeal to a much broader audience than today’s products.
The official word is that these are just show cars designed to highlight the brand’s push into the EV world, along with Kia’s growing use of recycled and environmentally sustainable materials. But when pushed a little harder, company officials had a slightly different story to tell.
“When we do show cars we try not to do things that can’t be done in production,” said Tom Kearns, the South Korean carmaker’s U.S. head of design.
“We don’t just do show cars”
Another senior official, talking on background, was far more direct: “We don’t just do show cars,” he said, adding Kia uses concepts to gauge public response to products that it’s typically already working up for production. And so is the case for the two models now highlighting the automaker’s stand at the LA Convention Center.
All of the Kia insiders that Headlight.News spoke to stressed that neither the Kia EV3 and EV4 have gotten final approval. But the development process continues to move along, among other things, with both models now going through extensive consumer clinics.
“The EV3 and EV4 are already in the plan,” said Sam Fiorani, senior analyst with AutoForecast Solutions.
In its current form, the Kia EV3 is a downsized take on the automaker’s new EV9 crossover, one of the first three-row battery-electric vehicles on the market. EV3 would feature just two rows but, by using a skateboard-like platform with batteries and motors under the load floor, it would offer class-above interior space.
Large digital gauge and infotainment screens dominate the instrument panel. And a floating center console sits between the two front seats.
EV3 features a boxy design that falls somewhere between the EV9 and the familiar Kia Soul. Like the EV4, it shares the same, flexible E-GMP platform that already underpins both Kia’s EV6 and EV9 models.
The second new, all-electric concept more closely resembles the Kia EV6 crossover, albeit with a lower stance and a more coupe-like roofline. As with the EV3 and Kia’s current production models, it adopts a sealed grille and the brand’s “Star Map” lighting.
With its crisp angles and squared-off wheel arches, the goal was to stress the width of the EV4 and give it a muscular appearance.
Response to the battery sedan has been extremely positive, according to those familiar with how it has fared in consumer clinics.
The fungus among us
Both models put a premium on the use of sustainable materials, including mycelium, or mushroom roots.
Though still early in the development stage, Kia design Marilia Biill said “Using Mycelium enables us to mimic the processes we see in nature and leverage it to design more sustainable solutions — the material can be grown in any shape you want using a mold.
The two concept vehicles also use materials like madder roots, walnut shells, recycled cotton and pop bottles, as well as hemp. The latter is “highly sustainable,” and easy to grow, said Biill. It’s also easy to mold into the sometimes complex shapes found inside a vehicle cabin.
Affordability is key
New vehicle prices have risen by nearly a third during the past decade and EVs are particularly expensive, averaging about $60,000 — or $10,000 more than comparable gas models — according to Kelley Blue Book.
That’s frequently cited as one of the reason why EV sales growth has slowed down this past year, despite a flood of new products coming to market.
With EV3 and EV4, however, the automaker would target more mainstream segments. Fiorani said Kia appears to be looking at starting prices of around $40,000 for production versions of the EV3 and EV4. But “depending upon the size and type of battery pack” they’d be offered with, they could push down closer to $30,000 for base models. Those would likely rely on lower-range, albeit less expensive lithium-iron phosphate batteries rather than lithium-ion.
In all, Kia plans to have eight all-electric models in production by 2029. By that point, they should account for nearly a third of the automaker’s U.S. volume, according to sales chief Eric Watson.
But those who like what they see with the Kia EV3 and EV4 concepts will have to wait a bit. “They’re still more than 18 months out” from production, analyst Fiorani told Headlights.News.
And in production they will all but certainly go through some changes. The rear-opening “suicide doors” on the EV3 would likely will be replaced by conventional portals, designer Kearns suggested. And even some of those sustainable fabrics will likely be replaced by more conventional materials that automakers and auto suppliers already know how to produce.
But their overall designs, based on the reactions garnered at auto shows and consumer clinics, should be close to what we see in concept form in Los Angeles.