Kia to focus on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles before electrics, chief engineer says


2017 Kia Niro

2017 Kia Niro

Enlarge Photo

Hyundai is aggressively pursuing its goal of becoming the second-biggest seller of green cars worldwide, behind only Toyota.

To accomplish that, it is rolling out a diverse array of new models across the main Hyundai brand, as well as Kia.

While some makers emphasize one technology over others, Hyundai is taking an "all of the above approach," encompassing hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric cars, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

DON'T MISS: Hyundai, Kia Do It All: Electrics, Hybrids, Prius Fighters, Hydrogen, Even Diesel (Aug 2015)

Both Hyundai and Kia will eventually offer all of these powertrains, but some may arrive sooner than others.

For the time being, Kia plans to focus on fuel cells rather than longer-range electric cars, engineering boss Albert Biermann told British car magazine Auto Express in a recent interview.

Biermann said Kia is not developing a "Tesla fighter" battery-electric car at this time, although it could do so at some future date.

2016 Kia Soul EV

2016 Kia Soul EV

Enlarge Photo

However, Kia is reportedly working on a fuel-cell model, which would be its first production car fueled by hydrogen.

This new model may use a version of the second-generation fuel-cell powertrain parent Hyundai plans to debut in 2018.

Hyundai has hinted that the new powertrain will be offered in another crossover, replacing the current Tucson Fuel Cell.

ALSO SEE: Next-generation Hyundai hydrogen fuel cells due in 2018

The next fuel-cell Hyundai is expected to roll out in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which are to be held in South Korea.

Kia may follow Hyundai's lead with a crossover of its own, although no specific details of the Kia fuel-cell vehicle have been confirmed yet.

Although fuel cells may be taking priority, Kia will continue to sell the Soul EV electric car.

2017 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid

2017 Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid

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In the U.S., sales of the Soul EV are limited to certain dealerships in a handful of states deemed to be sufficiently electric-car friendly by Kia.

The carmaker also sells a hybrid version of its Optima mid-size sedan, with a plug-in hybrid model due in showrooms this fall.

MORE: 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid on sale this fall

The Niro hybrid that debuted at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show will also go on sale later this year as Kia's first dedicated hybrid vehicle.

Meanwhile, within a year or 18 months, Hyundai will offer all-electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions of its new Ioniq hatchback model.

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