Kia: "EV battery tech has reached its peak"


Kia electric vehicle

Electric vehicle battery technology has hit a plateau and ranges are unlikely to get better any time soon – that's the disturbing news from latest EV manufacturer, Kia.
> On the day the Korean firm announced that an electric Soul mini SUV will be sold in Britain, the manufacturer's head of battery design told AOL Cars that development was starting to hit its peak.

Just three years ago, Kia engineers told us that for every year of battery development the cells would halve in size and double in range – however that prophecy appears not to have come true.

"Battery technology has peaked," revealed Jon-Ho Park, Kia's team leader for battery design.

"We can't see there will be a massive improvement in range unless another material is found in outer space or somewhere.

"Lithium-Ion battery technology is close to its most effective now and without another material to use we can't see a major improvement any time soon."

That news, from a manufacturer that is only just entering the worldwide EV market with a vehicle that can manage 125 miles on a charge, may come as a surprise – but it perhaps hints at the future direction Kia plans to take for alternatively-fuelled cars.

Kai electric vehicle

The Korean firm has refrained from putting all its eggs in an EV basket and has instead ploughed ahead with hybrid technology and, alongside sister brand Hyundai, fuel cell cars too.

It's clear it is the latter that makes the most sense to the Koreans, despite expensive infrastructure needing to be put in place first.

"By 2015 we will have a Kia fuel cell car," added Mr Park.

"And then by 2020 we will have full scale production, but it's the infrastructure and refuelling that is holding us back."

While the manufacturer may be unclear as to which alternative fuelled route to take, it's certainly got firmer ideas about its sports programme.

AOL Cars was told that despite the success of the Pro Cee'd GT – Kia's first entry in the hot hatch market – receiving many plaudits, it's adamant performance badges won't make it onto the back of its popular SUV models.

While premium car makers like Audi and BMW are pressing ahead with sporty iterations of its off-roaders, a budget alternative from Kia will definitely not happen, according to Chung-Yul Hwang, Kia's executive vice president of product management.

"We will never do a sporty SUV like Audi has with its RSQ models," he said.

"We need to go down the sporty route for sure with our brand, it is the right one for us and we are exploring all avenues – but not an SUV one."

While there may be mixed messages coming from Korea, it's clear Kia has some exciting plans for the future – and we wouldn't bet against it's march up the sales charts continuing.

Read the AOL Cars first drive of the cool Kia Ray EV HERE