Kia to offer crazy-fast EV charging with 800V battery system

Kia’s first dedicated EV model, to be launched in 2021, will be a high-riding, crossover-like sedan. That’s old news from January. But now there are reports that it will use an ultra-fast 800-volt battery system that could bring 15-minute EV pit stops to the masses.

To date, the poster child for the 800-volt EV battery architecture has been the Porsche Taycan. But the Taycan sports car in its cheapest form starts around $105,000 and goes up to $187,000. GM said the GMC Hummer EV, a goliath of a vehicle, will also use an 800-volt system.

Putting the same architecture into a Kia model, even a relatively expensive halo EV changes things.

Porsche’s 800-volt system uses lighter, thinner wiring to charge at unprecedented speeds with less heat. The shift from the typical 400-volt systems to 800 volts cuts the current in half. The 200-mile Taycan has a peak charge of 270 kilowatts, which means a charge from 5% to 80% in about 20 minutes.

GM is saying that its 400- and 800V platforms can both add about 100 miles in 10 minutes.

A 300-mile Kia EV that charges in 20 minutes

Kia in January confirmed that the upcoming EV will have “around 300 miles” of range and offer a “sub-20-minute recharge time.” For this vision to become a common reality, we will need to see a lot more 350-kW fast-chargers get installed throughout the country. No EV today can charge at 350 kilowatts, but the emerging 800-volt systems can commonly hit 250-kW.

Kia Motors Europe COO Emilio Herrera told Auto Express that its upcoming EV will not only charge fast but will throw passengers back in the seat with zero-to-60 performance in less than 3 seconds.

We will have in the new EV a high-performance vehicle like an e-GT.

Kia Imagine concept in geneva

The Kia EV’s style is based on the Kia Imagine concept

Carlos Lahoz, Kia Europe’s marketing director, underscored how Kia wants to make its first EV a technology showcase.

It is important to make a statement. Every manufacturer needs a halo car that sets the pace for whatever is coming. We are going to launch 11 electric cars by 2025, and this is the first stepping stone to what the new Kia is going to offer to consumers.

Lahoz suggested that state-of-the-art technology doesn’t need to come with premium prices and exclusive brands.

The key will be the migration of the 800-volt system to more affordable models. Kia is saying that some of its lower-cost EVs might keep the 400V architecture while premium, pricier models will offer the fast-charging 800V system.

The other outstanding question is how many of these models will make it to the US. In February, Steve Kosowski, manager of long-range planning and strategy at Kia Motors America, told Electrek that a focus on Europe and limited battery supplies continues to limit how many EVs that Kia sells in the US.

The priority is Europe. If we could get more [electric] cars here, we would sell them. My sense is that we would probably sell 2x or 3x what we currently sell.

Despite those constraints, Kosowski said that Kia’s Plan S sets out clear sales targets for the next five years. In major markets, including the US, pure electric cars will make up 20% of Kia’s brand sales by 2026. That equates to an increase from about 2,000 Kia EVs sold in the US in 2019 — to 125,000 electric vehicles in about five years.

Electrek’s Take

In the US, Kia’s current electric models are only offered in the 13 or so states that follow California emissions rules. The brand sold fewer than 2,000 EVs in the US in 2019. Furthermore, the second-generation Kia Soul EV with 243 miles of range was unveiled in late 2018, but will not be offered in the US until fall 2020.

So we need to take any big EV claims from Kia with a grain of salt.

That said, for the 800-volt architecture to migrate from Porsche to Kia (and GM) is a sign that highway EV charging will soon reach blistering speeds. An EV pit stop that reliably takes 10 to 15 minutes in a car badged as Kia is slowly but surely bringing EV recharging to the refueling times for gas cars. That’s a big deal.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.