Kia has its first customer for funky Duplo-like EV: Uber

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Kia’s new modular electric vehicle concept – that goes from micro-car to minivan to small truck to full-sized van – introduced at CES has its first customer: Uber. Kia and Uber have signed a memorandum of understanding to use Kia’s new vehicles for ride-hailing.

Kia just launched the new Platform Beyond Vehicles (PBV) at CES in Las Vegas, all built on a flexible vehicle architecture with bodies that you can swap out, Duplo-like, depending on your need. The driver cab stays fixed, but you can switch out the back of the vehicle with interchangeable parts, taking it from micro-car to minivan to a small truck with covered bed to a full-sized working van. As Electrek‘s Scooter Doll reported from CES, how it works is that the weld-less top structures come in kit form, which can attach to the driver cab via a hybrid electromagnetic and mechanical coupling technology. Not that he, or anyone at CES, saw it in action, so how seamless this whole process is yet to be discovered.

According to a press release, Uber is adding the PV5 as an option for drivers, all part of its goal to run an entirely electric fleet worldwide by 2040. The PV5 can be transformed to a passenger vehicle to van to a pickup with interchangeable modules, and even can be converted into a robotaxi.

Source: Kia

The deal with Kia is “to identify optimal specifications for PBV models, with the possible further integration of technology and services to benefit drivers and ride hailing users alike.” Together Kia and Uber will create “proofs of concept, prototypes, and the production of PBVs tailored to the needs of drivers that use the Uber platform.”

Kia’s goal is to produce 150,000 PBVs by 2025, and increase that rate to 300,000 per year by 2030.

Of course, these vehicles look an awful lot Canoo’s customizable EVs, and apparently, Hyundai/Kia considered striking up a business relationship with Canoo. But that fell through – still, it’s clear they looked to Canoo for some inspiration here.

Meanwhile, Uber is getting heat from local governments to clean up its act and get its drivers to switch to EVs. But convincing hundreds of thousands of drivers to do so, it’s no easy task, since it comes out of their pocket as independent contractors. Does this deal mean than Uber will help with the financing of these Kia modu-mobiles? Maybe. We’ve reached to Uber to see what they say and will update this post if and when we hear back.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Kia


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