Like the rest of the Hyundai Motor Group, Kia has been on a roll lately. While other automakers are easing off the accelerator on electric vehicles amid a weird year full of uneven demand, Kia is just straight-up going for it with new models like the EV9 three-row SUV. But nothing is as hotly anticipated as the Kia EV3, which should be one of the stronger contenders in the new race for smaller and cheaper EVs. And there's also reason to believe the U.S.-market Kia EV3 end up even cheaper than its targeted $35,000 price tag. 

Buried at the bottom of a recent article in Korea's Business Post is a line speculating that Kia could begin EV3 production at its Monterrey, Mexico plant "in the second half of next year." A few publications have run with that news like it's confirmed, but no plans have been officially announced for the EV3.

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The affordable EV race

Most experts now believe the next growth wave for EVs will be in the smaller, more affordable categories. Buyers are done with just being offered large, expensive luxury EVs and want cheaper options. With a targeted starting price around $35,000, the upcoming Kia EV3 could be a strong contender when that race kicks off.

It's important to note that this plan is entirely plausible, and if it happens—and I would say there's a strong chance it might—then it would allow the EV3 to qualify for tax credits when sold in the U.S. That could put its starting price tag in the sub-$30,000 range, if not less.

Gallery: Kia EV3 2024

Here's why it's a viable plan: Kia elaborated last fall on its plans to build a global EV manufacturing apparatus with factories all over. Those include EV production facilities in Korea, China, the U.S., Eastern Europe and, yes, Mexico. Some of those factories would make the same models; others would build EVs specific to those regions and their unique needs. 

Kia's factory near Monterrey has been open since 2016 and it already makes cars like the Forte and Rio, so it knows what it's doing on the affordable compact front. But being in North America should allow the EV3 to qualify for up to $7,500 in tax credits when purchased, as some Mexican-made EVs do already, like the new Chevrolet Equinox EV. Moreover, the timing of that report makes sense as well; the EV3 goes on sale in Korea next month, followed by Europe toward the end of this year and in the U.S. in 2025. That's not an unrealistic timeline to set the Monterrey plant up to make the car.

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Tax credits have been something of a sticking point for Kia and its corporate cousin Hyundai so far. Executives at the Korean automakers have said they were initially promised tax credits by the Biden Administration since South Korea is such an important U.S. ally. That later ended up not being the case as the tax credit system only incentivized EVs and batteries made in North America.

Instead, Kia and Hyundai have seen big sales wins through leasing, which does allow for an EV to qualify for the tax credit, no matter where it's made. Still, leasing isn't for everyone, and if automakers are serious about widespread EV adoption, then the incentives have to figure into purchases too.

The EV3 is projected to have up to 300 miles of range and will come in front- and all-wheel-drive forms. It will be available with two battery pack sizes: 58.3 kWh and 81.4 kWh, although for cost reasons it loses its bigger brothers' faster-charging 800V architecture. Still, it's not going to be too bad on that front, as Kia estimates a 10% to 80% charging time of 31 minutes.

Kia has every reason to try and pull off Mexican production for the EV3, but we won't know until we know. A Kia spokesperson declined to comment on the reports to InsideEVs, saying the automaker had nothing to announce yet on this front. With any luck, future announcements will bring good news for people who want more affordable electric cars.

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