As I have referenced in previous articles, InsideEVs confirmed Kia’s plan for “peak” PHEV production to be 2022. That’s now, in case you might also still be trapped in that pandemic inspired fog of “what year is it again?”. While that means we will see more PHEV models for sale from Kia than ever before (and perhaps ever again) this year, it’s apparently all downhill from here. Or rather, from here on electric (EV) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) will be the primary focus of Kia’s “electrification” of their model line and PHEVs will gradually decline in number and or be phased out. I thought this stance might be due to balancing battery supply, or perhaps because PHEVs are just a little more complicated, conceptually speaking. Customers (even the know-it-alls) sometimes struggle with the features and functionality of PHEVs as brands implement the technology differently and because it can be challenging to get the advertised efficiency or range, depending.
Thanks to Green Car Reports, we now have a little better explanation for why Kia has made its decision to gradually ramp down its production of PHEVs after this year. According to Steve Kosowski, manager of long-range planning and strategy at Kia Motors America, it is due to governmental or regulatory structure around greenhouse-gas targets, with EVs being scored higher or worth more (than PHEVs) in “credit” toward carmakers‘s fleet average fuel economy and or CO2 reduction targets. When it comes to broader electrification of model lines though, Kia and other carmakers are also deploying more HEV options as a means of improving fleet average fuel economy and lowering carbon emissions since HEVs cost less and can be made in larger numbers with limited battery supplies. These are likely reasons why companies like Toyota and Honda have so far focused more on production of HEVs than plug-in vehicles.
So it seems that the eventual phase out of PHEVs may be more a factor of governmental policy than customer acceptance/market demand, or complexity. GM may have been one of the first automakers to see “the writing on the wall”, when they decided to stop producing the Chevy Volt after the 2019 model year. The Volt still has a loyal, die hard group of owners and fans that love both generations of that groundbreaking vehicle though. GM’s choice to end PHEV production in the U.S. has also left them with few if any plug-in vehicles to sell after the battery recall and stop sale last year on their Bolt model and before they have been able to produce many of their new, higher priced Hummer and Cadillac EVs.
Interestingly, other automakers like Toyota and Ram may be expanding their PHEV offerings in coming years, with a possible Toyota Highlander PHEV and Ram 1500 4xe in the works. Might that be because they haven’t figured out what Kia, GM and others have? Probably not, since PHEVs are a “bridge” to EVs for both customers (who may need or want the security of a gas engine backup) and manufacturers (with ongoing battery supply limitations, more PHEVs can be made from the same stock of batteries than full EVs). Also in these two cases, PHEVs may also be a “practical” design option as well, since large SUVs and pick-ups need a lot more batteries to get acceptable range, especially when fully loaded or towing, and these large format PHEVs may make the most sense in terms of reducing gasoline consumption and emissions and keeping prices closer to mainstream averages. To bring it back to where we started though, perhaps Kia will offer other PHEVs in the future, besides those set for this year, as an approach to electrify their largest vehicles which would otherwise need the most batteries to produce. Only time will tell.
Images provided by Kia.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 14 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.