Kia Takes Transport to the Next Level at CES 2024
Kia took to the bright lights of Las Vegas and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) at the 2.4-million square foot Las Vegas Convention Center to showcase what it sees as the future not just of mobility, but a form of adaptability that they say is “ready to answer every question”.
It’s called “PBV” and while what that acronym stands for – Platform Beyond Vehicle – is a little odd, the idea is novel: develop not just a consumer-ready EV platform – with the e-GMP platform shared with Hyundai, Kia already has that – but one that can handle the rigours bestowed upon vehicles in the hauling and cartage world. Even that’s not all, though, because the PBV vehicles -- starting with the PV5, due to arrive in 2026 – also have a passenger version as well as a micro version for inter-urban work.
The kicker in all this, though, can be broken down to one word: modular.
With a PVB vehicle, you can have a delivery van one day, and a passenger van the next as the “life module” rear portion can literally be removed from the chassis and swapped for something else. It won’t be something you can do by yourself in your garage but according to Kia, you – or the company you work for – will be able to bring the vehicle to Kia’s own “upfitter” to get the rear ends swapped. There was even a display on the CES show that featured a PBV – in miniature – undergoing such a transformation. It may seem pie-in-the-sky but according to Kia, it’s a go; each PBV will be constructed of weldless high-strength tubular steel and bio-plastic finished in bio-paint. Inside, we find recycled fabric, felt and yarns; in addition to electrification and autonomy, sustainability is the theme these days in the auto world and Kia is up to the challenge with the PBV.
Speaking of the interior: if the steering wheel looks a little strange in its rectangular shape, well, that’s because it is and while the production vehicle’s wheel will likely be tweaked a little, the shape will still recall that which we’re seeing on the concept.
Of course, the steering wheel is a small part of how futuristic the interior looks; the iPad Pro-like central display, the iPhone-like display at the oddly-shaped wheel’s hub, and the full-width contrasting insert at the base of the windshield are futuristic to be sure. But Kia says it’s been designed to provide an office-like ambiance. Now, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise coming from something in the Hyundai-Kia-Genesis world; if we look back at the debut of the concept that eventually became the Ioniq 5, the talk there was all about feeling like a café or coffee shop. Similar language surrounds the Ioniq 7 three-row SUV concept so you can see where all this is coming from. The wheel, by the way, can tilt up when the car is at rest. That’s not because the PV5 is an autonomous vehicle (although – surprise, surprise -- that’s coming, too), but because it’s meant to resemble a desk lamp and will light the area below it. If that seems a little over-the-top, don’t forget that the Hyundai group has a number of vehicles with near lie-flat seats – drivers included – and the huge-selling Ford F-150 pickup has a collapsible shift lever that gives way to an expanded work surface.
A Full Range
In addition to the PV5 – which will get a number of versions spread across three “phases”, including a high-roof and chassis cab example – Kia is expecting the larger PV7 at one end of the spectrum, and the ultra cute PV1 at the other, a tiny thing whose goal it will be to grab items from the larger vans and get them to tougher-to-reach, traffic-clogged areas of the city.
The modularity extends past the vehicles themselves; Kia brought along a number of storage capsules to show off as well. All similarly shaped, they’re designed to be loaded and to fit seamlessly into the vans, without the need to play a game of Tetris to do so. Once in, Kia says they have developed a number of applications that in addition to allowing users to monitor their fleets and for the PVBs to “talk” to each other, will also be able to log what is in each same-looking capsule. Essentially, Kia is making it possible for transport companies to live in the cloud, all the way down the materials in their cargo bays.
It's a way of democratizing hauling and could be a boon for small businesses and larger ones alike.
While the PVB was the toast of the show, Kia also brought along examples of the next cars in the consume-facing EV line-up, the EV3 and the EV4.
Similar in size to a Niro, Soul, or Seltos, the EV3 is a compact people-mover whose lack of traditional door handles give the appearance that its actually a Mini Cooper-esque three-door model. It does have five doors, though, and thanks to a lack of any real running gear underneath it all, there will be plenty of room inside for the whole family.
As far as the styling goes: what looked far from production when the cars were first revealed in October has all of a sudden become very much the reality after the arrival of the EV9 three-row SUV. That vehicle is already at dealers and when you consider its blocky wheels and head- and taillight shape, what’s seen on the EV3 is very much a variation on a theme. Sure; it’s a little edgier and perhaps somewhat more complex but the shapes are still there and if Kia has the wherewithal to perform such a transformation on a mass-market people mover, then a funky compact crossover hatch thingy is ripe for the treatment. Of the two vehicles on display, the EV3 is closest to production with Kia wink-wink nudge-nudging at the whole CES crowd by stamping “concept” below “EV4” on that car’s badging and just “EV3” on the other.
Oh, the EV4 does look a treat, though.
Sitting somewhere between the Stinger GT and the crossover-coupes we’re starting to see more and more of in the car world, the EV4 is an electrified grand tourer whose lines put the likes of the Mercedes-EQ EQE sedan and BMW i5 to shame. The triangular wheel design, outrageous lower front rear splitters and narrow wing mirrors look like the kind of stuff you’d see in a car designer’s scrapbook…or on the shelf at Wal-Mart in 1:64 Hot Wheels form. If you really squint, you can see the connection with the rest of the Kia EVx world, but it’s a pretty far cry. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one.
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Dan has spent his whole life surrounded by all things automotive. From volumes of car magazines and books, to boxes of Hot Wheels, he was/is never far away from something four-wheeled and fun. He studied journalism at Centennial College in Toronto and is a board member at the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.
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