Hyundai plans to start selling its first battery-powered electric vehicle in 2016.
Hyundai has leant toward engines which turn hydrogen into electricity in response to stricter emissions regulations in markets such as the United States. Research and development partner Kia Motors Corp has focused on rechargeable batteries.
But the division of labor is blurring at a time when the number of battery-powered EVs is on the rise. BMW's i3 and Nissan Motor Co Ltd's Leaf are widely expected to reach Korea this year - as will Kia's Soul EV.
"There is no clear direction about which eco-friendly cars will win. We are dividing roles of Hyundai and Kia, with Hyundai launching fuel cell cars and Kia focusing on electric cars," Senior Vice President Lee Ki-sang told reporters on Tuesday.
"But the time will come when Kia will introduce a fuel-cell car. Hyundai is also preparing to launch a (battery-powered) electric car in 2016," Lee said at the Korean launch of the Soul
Kia, 34% owned by Hyundai, has favoured battery-powered cars because they can be charged at home as well as at charging stations. Fuel-cell cars must be refilled with hydrogen only at filling stations.
So far, a lack of charging stations and relatively short driving ranges, as well as high prices resulting from the cost of batteries, has kept the battery-powered EV market niche.
The number of battery-powered EVs on the rise, as BMW’s i3 and Nissan Motor Co Ltd’s Leaf are widely expected to reach Korea this year - as will Kia’s Soul EV.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Kia said it will start building a battery-powered version of its Soul compact in Korea next month. The car will be Hyundai-Kia’s first battery-powered EV export, with destinations including the U.S. and Europe.
For this year, the global sales target is 5,000 Soul EVs, said Cho Yong-won, vice president of Kia’s Domestic Marketing Group.
In Korea, the Soul EV will cost about half of its 42 million won ($43,650) price tag after government subsidies, similar to the higher-end model of the gasoline version.
The car can run up to 148 km per 24 to 33 minute fast charge or four hours on slow charge.