Batteries included as Hyundai amps up electric car ambitions

Thu Mar 30, 2017 8:48am EDT
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By Hyunjoo Jin

YONGIN, South Korea (Reuters) - South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS: Quote) is developing its first dedicated architecture for electric vehicles, an executive told Reuters, seeking to catch up with the likes of Tesla in the growing segment with multiple, long-range models.

While the platform will not be completed soon, Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS: Quote) plan to roll out small electric sport utility vehicles (SUVs) based on an existing underpinning next year, said Lee Ki-sang, who leads Hyundai-Kia's green cars operations.

The separate platform represents a major push into the battery electric-car segment for a firm which has long trumpeted rival fuel-cell vehicles, reflecting strong investor pressure to compete more vigorously in a market that has been stimulated by U.S.-based Tesla Inc's (TSLA.O: Quote) longer-range models.

Industry executives also say tough fuel-economy and emissions regulations in the United States, Europe and China are compelling automakers to push fuel-efficient cars even though low oil prices have undercut demand.

Hyundai's electric-car platform would allow the automaker to install a battery pack in vehicle floors to accommodate more battery capacity and maximize cabin space, Lee said.

"The electric-vehicle platform will require high up-front investments but we are doing this to prepare for the future," he said at Hyundai-Kia's green car research center in the city of Yongin, outside Seoul. He did not reveal the cost.

Lee, a senior vice-president at Hyundai Motor, was speaking during an interview on the eve of an auto show that kicked off in Seoul on Thursday.

Analysts said Hyundai had no choice but to join the likes of Tesla, General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) and Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE: Quote) unit Mercedes-Benz in building separate electric-vehicle platforms to be relevant in the segment.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: A Hyundai electric car is seen during the 15th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition in Shanghai April 21, 2013.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria