Update: ‘Insider details’ sub-section of ‘Strategic electric Kia truck’ updated.
At the 2022 Kia CEO Investor Day (March 3, 2022), Kia announced it had realigned its long-term plan of expanding its EV line-up – from 11 models by 2026 to 14 models by 2027. It also confirmed that two of the three additional EVs on its roadmap comprise electric truck models – “a dedicated electric pickup truck and a strategic model for emerging markets – and an entry-level BEV model.”
Strategic electric Kia truck
The strategic electric Kia truck is likely to arrive before the dedicated model. It will most likely be a conversion of a combustion model. A recent trademark filing at the Korean Intellectual Property Office (via KIPRIS) suggests the ICE model could be called ‘Kia Tasman.’ The current status of this application is “published for opposition,” and while Tasman sounds similar to Renault’s Talisman, both words have different meanings. If the application is given the green light, the electric variant may arrive as the ‘Kia Tasman EV.’
On August 6, 2019, The Digital Times said in an exclusive report that a pickup truck codenamed ‘Kia TK’ is in the pipeline. A report from ET News, published on May 11, 2023, indicates that the codename of the upcoming Kia pickup truck is ‘Kia TK1,’ not Kia TK as previously believed. It says that the development phase of the Kia TK1 has been completed, and it is scheduled to have its global debut in 2024. Kia plans to manufacture the TK1 pickup truck at its AutoLand Hwaseong factory in South Korea, starting in December 2024, with a targeted annual production volume of 65,000 units, it adds.
According to the ET News report, the TK1 will be a pickup truck for emerging markets and it will be available with two engine options – 2.5-liter turbocharged gasoline and 2.2-liter diesel. It will have a four-wheel drive system and an automatic transmission. Based on Kia’s mid- to long-term EV strategy, ET News expects it to gain an electric variant in the future. This speculation matches with what we reported earlier, that one of Kia’s two electric pickup trucks will be a conversion of an ICE model.
According to the ET News report, the Kia pickup truck will be available in both single-cab and dual-cab configurations. Additionally, there are plans for an off-road-focused variant, which might be exclusive to the dual-cab version. Although the report does not specifically mention the cab layout of the electric variant, Kia should follow the industry trend of offering only a dual-cab option for the electric version.
The design language of the new electric pickup may not drift much from what’s on display in the Telluride SUV. That said, Kia is expected to overhaul a few key aspects of the design to bring forth a rugged look associated with pickup trucks, while also making the silhouette of the vehicle appear more upright.
The vertically-oriented LED headlamps and taillights are also likely to find their way to this pickup, so is the Korean brand’s signature ‘tiger nose’ main grille, along with a beefy-looking hood. The former will reportedly be wider, thus occupying more room in the front fascia. These are to be accompanied by door handles boasting an unconventional vertical design and pronounced wheel-arch extensions, the report suggests.
We are expecting the Kia Tasman EV to be available with plenty of modern features, even besting what’s currently offered with the Telluride. Depending on the market and price, this truck’s equipment catalog is likely to include adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection & collision mitigation, around-view cameras, a multi-zone climate control system, LED ambient lighting, power sunroof, multiple drive modes, wireless phone charging, heated & ventilated front seats, and dual fully-digital displays for the driver and the infotainment system.
According to a report PerformanceDrive released on December 5, 2022, a company insider has revealed some interesting details that seem more pertinent to the latter. The report says that Kia engineers are developing a regular combustion truck with a heavy-duty ladder-body frame.
It’s possible that the Kia Tasman EV could utilize the same hardware, but with extensive modifications to better suit its purpose. Furthermore, propulsion is to be delivered by two electric motors – one on each axle – energized by a 123 kWh battery pack. The combined system output will be 550 hp (410 kW) and 800Nm (590 lb.-ft.) of torque, according to the insider. The Australian publication says that the electric Kia truck should be capable of towing loads of up to 7,500 pounds.
Price & Release Date
In Australia, the Kia Tasman EV is expected to start at AUD 90,000 or around USD 60,500. Globally, the EV truck will launch in 2026, as per Kia’s guidance at the 2022 Kia CEO Investor Day.
Dedicated electric Kia truck
Meanwhile, the other Kia truck is still expected to be a new model with a clean-sheet design, challenging the Ford F-150 Lightning, Tesla Cybertruck, Scout electric truck, and the Rivian R1T. Since Kia designers won’t be confined by the hard points of a gas-powered truck, it could have unique proportions, with better space, features, and capabilities than the repurposed Kia strategic truck. Below are some of the expected features.
The all-electric Kia truck models should feature bidirectional charging capabilities. Customers would be able to use the energy stored in the battery pack to power their homes and this feature would be useful during power outages. Vehicle to load (V2L) function could be useful during outdoor adventures like camping and trekking as well, to power electrical items like a grille or a party speaker. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) charging would also be possible, letting customers transfer power to another EV at the work site.
With no engine under the hood, Kia would be free to use this space to improve the practicality of the electric truck models. It may offer a front trunk (frunk) for additional storage space, along with a few charging points and a cooler built into it. Customers would be able to use it to store their golf bags, work tools, groceries, and more. Plus, they would be able to use it as a cooler as well, to keep their drinks chilled or food stored at a safe temperature during excursions.
Kia should equip the electric trucks with its patented multi-charging system that supports 400V and 800V DC charging to maintain its competitive position. Customers would be able to charge the Kia truck models with speeds ranging from 50kW to 350 kW using DC chargers. DC charging from 10 to 80% could be a matter of just around 20 minutes.
Kia would extensively use eco-friendly materials in the cabin of the EVs. These may include recycled plastics for floor carpet and sustainable suede and vegan leather for the upholstery in the Kia truck models.
Digital side mirrors
Instead of traditional wing mirrors, the bespoke Kia truck could feature a camera monitoring system that sends a live visual feed to dedicated OLED monitors placed in the cabin. The digital side mirrors reduce air resistance, provide a better rear view even in dark or bad weather conditions, and improve the driver’s spatial awareness.
Kia electric truck in the U.S.
Kia America is not jumping the gun. Kia America Marketing VP Russell Wager spoke to Green Car Reports at the 2022 New York Auto Show and stated that Kia is still evaluating the business case for an electric truck. Wager stated that the product, which would be a global electric truck, would not be positioned in the affordable end of the segment and would be a premium offering. This is no surprise, as the aforementioned electric pickups are all premium products.
It would be an aberration if the Kia pickups don’t come to the U.S. market, or make the region its priority. Pickup trucks are extremely popular in the United States, and along with SUVs, accounted for more than two-thirds of new vehicle sales in 2021. There are already hundreds of thousands of orders for upcoming models, and demand is in the stratosphere. The GMC Hummer EV and Hummer SUV, for instance, have 90,000+ reservations with wait times running into months and years, the Ford F-150 Lightning has 200,000 reservations, and the Chevy Silverado EV has 170,000 reservations. How Kia embraces the segment is something we can only wait and watch.
Starting in 2023, Kia will release at least two new EV models a year to establish a full line-up of 14 electric vehicles by 2027. On top of the 11 EV models announced in 2021, the electric pickup trucks and an emerging market entry EV are new additions.
Production of at least the dedicated model, if not the strategic model, should take place in the U.S. The truck could roll out of a factory in the State of Georgia, either the upcoming Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America (HMGMA) dedicated EV factory in Bryan County or the existing Kia Georgia plant in West Point. This decision would be driven by the fact that Kia would want to ensure competitive pricing and Clean Vehicle Credit eligibility for the electric pickup truck(s) it launches in the U.S.
Answering Autocar.co.uk in 2021, Kia’s design head Karim Habib said he would welcome a pickup with “open arms,” stating that he believed even in the U.S., despite loyalty to existing brands, new opportunities are opening up.
Before venturing into new segments where they have no experience, Kia must introduce zero-emission alternatives to the bread earners like Forte, Sportage, Telluride, and Optima. According to JD Power, 78.5 percent of the estimated retail sales in the U.S. auto market (of new vehicles) were SUVs and pickups (trucks) in 2021.
If Kia sticks to its ethos, the two electric pickup trucks could be among the few value-for-money, affordable models in their respective segments and significantly contribute to making electric pickups accessible to the masses. The bespoke model should provide plenty of high-end technologies, innovative convenience features, and a bold design that appeals to young customers, whereas the derivative vehicle could be an ‘adventurous’ alternative to a budget sedan or SUV.
Featured image: TopElectricSUV.com’s rendering of a Kia truck derived from the Hyundai Santa Cruz.