Kia Takes Aim at Commercial Vans with PBV Concepts

Kia has announced plans to enter the global electrified commercial van market by 2026.

Kia plans to launch the PBV lineup globally by 2026. (Kia)

Kia is positioning itself to make waves in the commercial vehicle sector. At CES 2024 in Las Vegas, the company pulled back the curtains on its electrified commercial van lineup. Though the designs are still at the concept stage, Kia has made it clear that it intends to enter the global commercial van space in short order.

The PV5 is the second largest of the PBV concepts Kia has presented. (Kia)

SAE Media interviewed Tim Walker, director of fleet and remarketing, at NTEA’s Work Truck Week 2024 in Indianapolis to discuss some design details of the PV vans, Kia’s overall strategy for entering the commercial vehicle sector, and the challenges of bringing the vans to market.

What is Kia’s main goal in entering the commercial vehicle sector in North America?

The genesis for this idea was to move our fleet to zero carbon emissions by 2045. Obviously, that starts with the retail side, but at the same time our chairman changed the general edict of our corporate strategy to be more focused on mobility solutions. Mobility is not just selling a customer a car. It’s about moving people and goods in a new and different way. E-commerce was also a big factor. There is a lot of desire to deliver products to customers and other entities by using electricity instead of fossil fuels. We’re mainly focused on big fleets, but we’re also looking to serve small businesses. We see a lot of need in the near future to move this direction, so we’re introducing these concepts to indicate that we’re coming to this space.

How many different models are currently planned?
The interior of the PBV vans is designed to be modular and easily reconfigurable. (Kia)

The lineup that we are currently planning is four distinct models. The PV7 is the largest model in the family. The PV5 is our mid-level offering, and we will have three different versions including a chassis cab, a tall box and a rideshare vehicle that can carry up to five people. The smaller vans like the PV5 will have a 400-volt architecture, while the PV7 will have an 800-volt system. The 800V system will have a design similar to our EV6 and EV9. Both the PV5 and PV7 will have a single motor with a range of 50 to 70 kWh. The 70-kilowatt version will be what we use for North America because it gives us more range which better fits the U.S. driving style. The PV9 will have a 103-kWh motor for the U.S. market, which will provide a 209-mile (336-km) range. The bigger vans will have a payload of 2,866 lbs. (1,300 kg) and the smaller van will have 1,730 lbs. (785 kg).

What are some details about the driveline and packaging that you can share?

These vans are all front-wheel drive. The front module is similar to what we use in some of our other vehicles. There’s a reduction gear motor and the power electronics sit on top of the battery. The powertrain itself is entirely housed in the front of the chassis, which is a unibody design. The batteries are centrally located between the wheels but biased towards the rear to open up space for various ergonomic options. On the cargo versions, there is an option to fold the passenger seat into the floor and the console will be a different configuration so that the driver can easily move from their seat into the cargo area.

How modular is the basic platform?
Kia brought a PV5 and a PV7 to display at NTEA’s 2024 Truck Week show in Indianapolis, Indiana. (SAE Media)

One of the big ideas behind this platform is that it’s all interchangeable. Our goal is to be able to switch out the ‘life modules’ between cargo, rideshare and other configurations. If you look at the cab portion which is from the door forward, the design is fixed at this point. From here back you can change the body to different configurations. We also announced at CES that customers will be able to purchase a kit and make body changes themselves. It’s a tubular design and some of the panels are attached with mechanical fasteners and electromagnets. So, modularity is built in from the basic design. The front bumpers on these are three pieces. One of the most common places for vans like this to get hit is on the front. So, if you do happen to hit something, you can just replace one piece of the fascia and not the whole thing. The front charge point has also been moved out of the impact zone to avoid damage.

Do you have any details on production?

All of these vehicles will be produced at our plant in Hwaseong, South Korea. We have an additional plant that is dedicated just to producing these vehicles. Our total volume will be roughly 150,000 units annually. This is a global program, so we intend to sell these vans in markets all over the world. Our target time to market for the rideshare van is Q1 of 2026. The cadence after that is still to be determined.

What unique innovations and features is Kia planning to offer to fleet owners with these models?

We have a massive investment into revolutionizing how these vehicles travel together and how you can manage that from a fleet management standpoint. These will have the capability to interface with other fleet management systems if a customer wants to use their own system, but we are also developing our own solution. We’re also fielding a lot of interest from industries with unique needs such as the refrigeration, heating, cooling or food delivery. For example, if you are a catering company, you need refrigeration for the time you are at an event. So instead of having a small generator off to the side, you can just tap into the battery on the van to provide the power for that unit.

What challenges does Kia see in the future for getting these vans to market?

Development isn’t really the hurdle, it is more about getting the distribution channel set up. Which is why we’re out at this show to generate interest and get the message out. Our current plan is to activate our current dealer network to sell these vans. Having that established dealer network is a huge advantage for concerns like parts delivery. We’re an established OEM with a strong parts network, so we want to leverage that in order to make these vans more appealing to potential customers.