SEOUL: Hyundai Motor Co said on Thursday it was placing electric vehicles at the center of its product strategy – one that includes plans for a premium long-distance electric car as it seeks to catch up to Tesla and other rivals.
Like Toyota Motor Corp, Hyundai had initially championed fuel cell technology as the future of eco-friendly vehicles but has found itself shifting electric as Tesla shot to prominence and battery-powered cars have gained government backing in China.
Toyota is now also working on longer distance, fast-charging electric vehicles, local media have reported.
The South Korean automaker is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 500 km (310 miles) per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small sport utility vehicle (SUV) with a range of 390 km in the first half of next year.
“We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centering on electric vehicles,” Executive Vice President Lee Kwang-guk told a news conference, calling the technology mainstream and realistic.
The automaker and affiliate Kia Motors Corp, which together rank fifth in global vehicle sales, also said they were adding three plug-in vehicles to their plans for eco-friendly cars, bringing the total to 31 models by 2020.
Underscoring Hyundai’s electric shift, those plans include eight battery-powered and two fuel-cell vehicles – a contrast to its 2014 announcement for 22 models, of which only two were slated to be battery-powered.
Hyundai also confirmed a Reuters report that it is developing its first dedicated electric vehicle platform, which will allow the company to produce multiple models with longer driving ranges.
Last year, it launched its first mass-market pure electric car IONIQ, but the vehicle’s per-charge driving range is much shorter than offerings from Tesla and General Motors.