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Purpose-built vehicles (PBVs) sound like something out of a sci-fi film. Not just a motor vehicle for driving around PBVs are designed to not only transport passengers, but also serve a specific purpose. The most common idea thrown around are portable medic vans, and Kia Corp is one automaker that is quick to get on the train for designing and producing PBVs. In conjunction with its parent group, Hyundai Motor Co, the two automakers gave us a look at what PBVs could do during the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It’s clear that the Kia 2022 CEO Investor Day cemented the two paths of the Kia Plan S Strategy – Electric Vehicles (EVs) and PBVs. With the first test PBV (Niro Plus) already in testing overseas, Kia Corp is about to establish E-FOREST, an all-new, high-tech smart manufacturing facility with a sole focus on the production of PBVs.
It seems like every major automaker is opening a new facility strictly for a type of vehicles. Some are building joint facilities to tackle the EV lineup, whereas Kia already has a stronghold on EV production, shifting all of its resources towards an electrified lineup with two new EVs to be released every year between now and 2027. With the two-fork Plan S Strategy, PBVs were parallel to EVs, and now Kia can dedicate a new work force towards the design of a smart factory ecosystem that creates one-of-a-kind vehicles, but in mass. The “E” in “E-FOREST” stands for the innovation to connect to consumers with elements such as artificial intelligence, robot technology, and ICT; the “FOREST” refers to the ecosystem that will embody these elements to function as one whole.
“This dedicated PBV facility is one of the major pillars of our Plan S strategy as Kia seeks to claim the top position in the global PBV market…We will initially explore new markets with derivative PBV models, then gradually expand our presence in global markets with dedicated PBV models featuring autonomous driving technologies.” - Ho Sung Song, President and CEO of Kia Corporation
Starting with a target goal of 100,000 PBVs a year for production, as the facility grows and operations can be evaluated, the intention is to increase production to 150,000 units annually to match with the projected growth of PBV market. Construction of the new E-FOREST facility is scheduled for 2023, with production expected to begin in 2025. This will make sure that Kia Corp is able to follow its 2030 roadmap and make sure PBVs are as prominent in the auto industry and the auto market as EVs and PHEVs.
With the Kia Niro Plus already operating, we don’t think a PBV facility producing three years from now will still be pumping out this robotaxi. Instead, we think the first PBV Kia Corp teased will be the PBV shown during the 2022 CES. During the Kia exhibit, a short film showed a PBV that was more or a less an operating room on wheels. It does sound like something out of sci-fi, especially if it flew, able to heal people or mend their wounds while mobile. Sure, we have ambulances, but they’re nowhere near the level of complexity that an operating room with trained surgeons can offer. That’s the future that Kia Corp is aiming for, and that PBV will be the first of a variety.
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