Kia Motors unveils small electric car in South Korea

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 21, 2011 8:38 PM
Kia Motors unveils small electric car in South Korea

SEOUL (Reuters) - Kia Motors Corp, an affiliate of Hyundai Motor Co, on Thursday unveiled an all-electric version of its small car initially for government use in South Korea, as the companies begin to tap the nascent segment.

Kia Motors, South Korea's second-biggest automaker, said it would manufacture 2,500 units of its first electric vehicle next year, based on its box-shaped Ray model launched in late November, for domestic sale only.

"We plan to sell it to the public later, but have not decided when and how many to sell," a Kia Motors spokesman said.

Kia said the Kia Ray EV could travel up to 139 km (86 miles) on a single charge and had a maximum speed of 130 km per hour.

The high price tag and a lack of charging infrastructure have been cited as major hurdles for the fast adoption of electric cars, which are struggling to compete with gasoline-burning models with striking fuel efficiency.

Seoul said on Thursday that it would provide tax support of up to 4.2 million won ($3,700) for the Ray and Renault Samsung Motors' upcoming SM3 ZE electric compact to help rev up the market.

"There are 500 slow/fast recharge stations in South Korea, and the government plans to increase that figure to 3,100 stations by the end of 2012," Kia said in a statement.

Hyundai was a latecomer to the green car industry, launching the hybrid version of its Sonata sedan in the United States only this year, while bigger rival Toyota Motor Corp has long dominated the segment with its Prius hybrid.

General Motors Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd are betting big on the Volt and Nissan electric vehicles.

Hyundai Motor started last year to produce its first all-electric model, BlueOn, for only fleet use in South Korea.

($1 = 1147.6500 Korean won)

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Chris Lewis)