Announced in May last year, Kia's dedicated plant for electric Purpose-Built Vehicles (PBV) in South Korea had its groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.
Located in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, the new facility will start to mass produce battery-electric PBVs in second half of 2025. Kia projects the factory will have an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles in the first full year, with the potential to expand in line with future market conditions.
Before delving into more details about the plant, let's clear up what Kia means by purpose-built vehicles. Essentially, these are commercial vehicles developed to respond to various business demands. Areas of applications include delivery, ride hailing, business-to-business transactions, logistics, multi-seat shuttles, mobile offices or stores, robotaxis, and more.
Kia will invest around $758 million (one trillion won) to secure 99,000 acres of land for the cutting-edge smart factory in Hwaseong. The company says the new PBV plant will apply innovative manufacturing technologies such as the "cellular method," which allows vehicle production based on diverse customer demands.
This process groups together machines or workstations that are used to produce similar products or parts with the goal of reducing the distance that materials and products need to travel during production, thereby minimizing downtime, reducing costs and increasing productivity.
Gallery: Electric Kia Purpose Built Vehicles (PBV)
The new cell method will be combined with the original mass-production conveyor system to allow flexible production with more customization of various product types.
In addition, the PBV plant will be build as a low-carbon factory by operating a dry booth 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 says it will also apply innovative technologies such as AI-powered automation of facilities, painting quality inspection under the vehicle, and installation of parts such as glass, vehicle name, and company logo. The plant will also apply real-time automatic measurement quality data analysis to autonomously correct and install the vehicle body in real time.
As for the vehicles that will be made at the new plant, the first one will be a mid-size PBV based on the eS dedicated skateboard platform for battery electric PBVs, which is said to enable various types of vehicle bodies to be flexibly combined. Codenamed SW, the vehicle has been developed for delivery, ride hailing and business-to-business (B2B) transactions.
Kia says the SW will have "excellent load structure and spacious indoor space that reaches the height of an adult." This model will enter production in the second half of 2025.
It will be followed later on by large-sized PBVs that can be used for logistics, fresh food delivery, multi-seat shuttles, and mobile offices and stores, as well as small-sized PBVs and mid-sized robotaxis featuring autonomous driving technology.