The electric car market in Australia is a bit like that old saying about waiting for a bus – for ages there are none and then several come along at the same time.
The latest newcomer – due here end of this year/early next – is another South Korean offering following in the tyre tread of Hyundai’s all-electric Ioniq and Kona, but this time from Kia.
The Kia Niro has been around for a while overseas in a plug-in hybrid version but it hasn’t made its way here. That changes with the imminent arrival of the all-electric version and it’s set to be priced at around $40,000, so is another entrant in what is fast becoming a bustling niche market.
Known as a compact utility vehicle, the Niro is similar to sister-company Hyundai’s Kona so it will be interesting to see who wins in that sales battle.
Certainly Kia has big plans for the Niro.
“The Niro EV will be Kia’s second globally sold electric vehicle, following the immensely popular Soul EV,” said Kia CEO Han-Woo Par in a statement at the International Electric Vehicle Expo earlier this year.
And with a claimed range of 380km between full charges, the Niro will do much to dispel the range anxiety fears some motorists suffer when it comes to electric vehicles.
The Niro’s long-distance range has been achieved using new production technologies, say Kia, which mainly relate to engineering advances in the drivetrain area making the delivery of power more efficient.
Along with what Kia calls this ‘next-generation electric vehicle powertrain’, the Niro offers a 64kWh lithium-polymer battery that the company says will take 54 minutes to charge to 80% capacity.
Buyers in other markets will also be able to order the Niro EV with a smaller battery system of 39.2 kWh, delivering a range of up to 240 kilometres, but that is unlikely to make an appearance in Australia.
Niro’s equipment manifest includes forward-collision warning, forward-collision-avoidance assist, smart cruise control with stop/start and Level 2 autonomous-vehicle-rated lane-keeping assist.
The Niro will join the all-electric Renault Zoe, latest generation Nissan LEAF, Hyundai Kona and Ioniq, and the Tesla Model 3 on Australian roads in what promises to be an exciting year for EV enthusiasts and could well prove to be the turning point from ICE to electric powered cars.
Tony Bosworth writes for www.TheDriven.io and RenewEconomy.com.au. He has 35 years experience in journalism, and has been instrumental in launching and editing several automotive magazines including Which Car? magazine in the UK.