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Kia’s Electric Vans Can Quick-Swap Bodies to Take on Any Job

Kia's new PBV commercial vehicles have modular bodies that let them switch between delivery van and taxi in a flash.
PV1 Concept. PV5 Concept Docking

While electric passenger cars get most of the hype, electrified commercial vehicles will soon form the invisible backbone of our everyday life. Electric vans in particular are rapidly becoming a major frontier of the automotive biz, with everyone from Rivian to Volkswagen and GM’s BrightDrop sticking their feet in the door. They’ll soon have to play footsies with a fourth, as Kia’s preparing its own electric vans complete with highly customizable, swappable bodies and their own dedicated software and business ecosystem.

Announced at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show, Kia’s “Platform Beyond Vehicle” scheme is built on an upcoming lineup of reconfigurable electric vans of varying sizes. Basically, they’ll be chassis cabs that attach to a variety of upper bodies using a combination of mechanical and electromagnetic anchors. In theory, this lets users quick-swap between delivery vans, passenger shuttles, and even recreational vehicles.

These vans will be capable of vehicle-to-load (or grid) and come in three sizes, all on display at CES. Between the PV1, PV5, and PV7, the midsize PV5 will be the first to launch as part of PBV’s “phase one.” It’ll arrive with a variety of body styles, from chassis cabs to high-roof vans, which Kia sees suiting use cases from delivery to utilities (and by extension, trades).

In “phase two,” Kia will roll out the smaller PV1 and larger PV7, completing the PBV lineup. The PV1 will handle smaller loads over shorter distances, and fit tighter spaces than its bigger brethren. The PV7 meanwhile will have better range and more interior space, which may make it useful for serving distribution centers.

Come “phase three,” Kia will emphasize customization with rail systems for the vans’ ceilings, floors, walls, and exterior along with “cabinets and frames” for transferring payloads. Kia also expects to deploy an SAE Level 4 autonomous taxi at this phase, meaning one that operates with only periodic human intervention. Given Cruise’s recent scandal however, that step seems a bit farfetched.

All Kia PBVs will operate under a new software system with expansive business support, offering everything from fleet and charging management tech to entertainment. Onboard infotainment will offer an app market that will, in some cases, integrate with smartphones using apps supported on both.

The rubber is expected to hit the road in 2025 when Kia opens a dedicated factory in Korea for its PBVs, which it expects to have an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles. It sounds like Rivian won’t have the electric commercial van space (mostly) to itself for long at all.

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