Kia has shown its vision of the future of mobility at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, with a modular ‘Platform Beyond Vehicle’ (PBV) that takes another stab at creating a continuously customizable vehicle. But this is no simple fantasy: the first model, the Kia PV5, will enter mass production in 2025.
Kia’s Platform Beyond Vehicle business is aimed more at businesses rather than private customers, although it’s not purely a commercial vehicle platform. It’s an entire range of fit-for-purpose vehicles, from personal city mobility and robotaxis to large cargo vans, based on a flexible chassis that can be converted on the fly to suit multiple needs.
The core of the Kia PBV is the driver zone, a fixed cab on a skateboard-like chassis that can be outfitted with different ‘life modules’ using ‘Easy Swap’ technology, which combines the use of mechanical coupling and electromagnets to provide the necessary rigidity.
Some modules even include moveable parts to further increase flexibility. Kia provides the example of a PBV that can be used as a delivery van during the day and a taxi at night, or vice versa, and as a personal recreational vehicle on weekends.
But this is not just a concept. Kia is actually gearing up to produce these PBVs, starting with Phase One in 2025. That will see the launch of the PV5, a mid-size vehicle that can be converted into a passenger vehicle, van, chassis cab, and more. A Robotaxi developed with Motional, which already has Ioniq 5 robotaxis in the US, is also on the cards.
Phase Two will see an expansion of the PBV ecosystem with two new models: the larger PV7 and the smaller PV1, meant for urban passenger and cargo transport. An integrated rail system will also be introduced, which can be used to move items between vehicles or offer further personalization.
Software will also play a key part in Kia’s PBV ecosystem. Not only fleet management software, but the PBVs will also be able to communicate with each other and provide AI-based personalized in-vehicle-infotainment. This also creates Phase Three in the plan, where the PBVs evolve into a complete mobility ecosystem with connected self-driving vehicles as part of a smart city.
Uber first to sign up
Already at CES, Kia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Uber to develop PBVs for drivers. This will support Uber’s plans to achieve its 2040 zero-emission goal for its ride-hailing fleet. “Drivers on the Uber platform will also have the ability to choose Kia vehicles with a comprehensive suite of offerings that will ease the ramp up of electrification and help achieve both Kia’s and Uber’s sustainability goals,” said SeungKyu Yoon, president & CEO of Kia North America.
Kia and Uber already have a partnership in place in North America: Kia Flex. This program allows Uber drivers to choose their Kia vehicle for the Uber platform. The addition of the PBV should allow for more flexibility in choosing a vehicle package and lower the cost of electric vehicles.
Coming in 2025
More concrete, Kia is building a PBV-dedicated production plant in Autoland Hwaseong, Korea, which will produce the platforms and the modules to customize the vehicles. The factory is set to become operational in 2025, with an annual capacity of 150 000 ‘units’.