Kia has taken a step towards a greener future by holding a groundbreaking ceremony for its new battery-electric plant. The new facility, which is set to produce purpose-built vehicles (PBVs), was officially announced at the company’s Hwaseong plant in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.
The ceremony was attended by over 200 people, including government officials, Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung, Kia’s Global President and CEO Ho Sung Song, and other employees from Hyundai Motor Group and the automotive parts industry.
During the ceremony, Kia President and CEO Ho Sung Song stated that Hyundai Motor, Kia, and Hyundai MOBIS plan to invest KRW 24 trillion (approximately USD 18 billion) in the domestic electric vehicle industry by 2030. The goal is to make South Korea one of the top three players in the global EV market by enhancing the competitiveness of the entire electric vehicle ecosystem, including research and development, production, and infrastructure.
Kia plans to invest around one trillion won (approximately USD 758 million) to secure 99,000 acres of land for the new PBV plant. The company plans to start mass-production in the second half of 2025, with an annual production capacity of 150,000 units. The new plant will be built as an eco-friendly facility, using future innovative manufacturing technologies while minimizing carbon emissions.
One of the innovative manufacturing processes to be implemented at the new PBV plant is known as the ‘cellular method.’ This method allows vehicle production based on diverse customer demands, grouping together machines or workstations that are used to produce similar products or parts. The aim of the cell method is to create a more efficient and flexible manufacturing process by reducing the distance that materials and products need to travel during production.
The PBV plant’s cutting-edge manufacturing system unifies the new cell method with the original mass-production conveyor system to allow flexible production with more customization of various product types. Additionally, the plant will be built as a low-carbon factory by operating a dry booth, a nature-friendly construction method, during the painting process of vehicle manufacturing, and reducing carbon emissions by about 20 percent compared to existing factories by utilizing natural light and streamlining the manufacturing process.
Kia will also apply innovative technologies such as automation of facilities using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), automation of painting quality inspection under the vehicle, automation of installation of parts such as glass, vehicle name, and company logo, and real-time automatic measurement quality data analysis to autonomously correct and install the vehicle body in real time.
The new facility will be a ‘human-friendly’ plant by pushing automation in heavy-duty work and tasks that require looking up at the ceiling, while enhancing the feeling of ‘openness’ and also reducing noise levels.
Kia plans to show SW (project name), the first model in the company’s dedicated PBV lineup, in 2025. The model will be a mid-sized PBV and will be based on the “eS” platform, a dedicated skateboard platform for battery electric PBVs, enabling various types of vehicle bodies to be flexibly combined.
SW has been developed to respond to various business demands such as delivery, ride hailing, and business-to-business (B2B) transactions thanks to its excellent load structure and spacious indoor space that reaches the height of an adult. After launching the mid-sized SW PBV, Hyundai has now unveiled its full-sized autonomous robotaxi, the IONIQ 5 Robotaxi. The new robotaxi is based on the IONIQ 5 electric vehicle, which was unveiled in February this year. Hyundai plans to operate a pilot service of the IONIQ 5 Robotaxi on public roads in the second half of 2023 in select cities in Korea.