There’s a category of cars I like to call "Electric Crossover, But It’s From Us." You know the type, even if you’ve never thought about them that way. They’re what you get when an automaker wants to go electric in a super important category meant to sell lots of cars – compact or midsize crossovers, usually – but they don’t really have any notable party tricks. Maybe the range is so-so, the technology is just fine, or there’s not really a case to be made to buy one over its competition.
Now, getting more electric vehicles on the road is always a good thing, and not every car needs some standout talent. But those features do help make relatively unexciting crossovers feel a little more interesting. At first, I thought the subcompact Kia EV3 Concept would be like that: not much more than a downsized Kia EV5 or EV9 aimed at small crossover buyers. But I’m pleased to say I was wrong. The EV3 Concept has a rear seat where the bottom part folks up, allowing you to accommodate an e-bike or an electric scooter – which you can also charge up using vehicle-to-load (V2L) charging. Not bad.
The EV3 Concept was one of several new electric cars Kia showed off at its inaugural EV Day event in Seoul, with the others being the production version of the EV5 crossover and the new EV4 Concept sedan. But only the EV3 Concept has the ability to stow and charge what you might call an "electric micro-mobility solution."
V2L is becoming an increasingly common and popular feature on modern EVs. It turns your car into a giant mobile battery, capable of directly charging laptops, tools, appliances, or anything else that runs on electricity. On Kia and Hyundai’s EVs, you typically connect your device to an adapter that resembles a J1772 plug, press a button, and then enjoy some flowing electrons.
While Hyundai Motor Group currently does not make scooters or e-bikes, it’s flirted with things like that in the past and it’s said it is exploring ways to expand into so-called "last mile" mobility solutions. For the kind of younger, urban buyer Kia would aim the EV3 at, the ability to store and charge such a device could be a massively useful feature – especially as e-bikes start to outsell regular bikes in certain markets. (That, or you go down the street and get yourself a Honda Motocompacto and stick that in the back of your Kia.)
That’s not the only party trick here, either. There’s a console table inside that Kia says wasn’t made but grown – it’s made of mycelium, the root-like structure of a fungus. "Using Mycelium enables us to mimic the processes we see in nature and leverage it to design more sustainable solutions," Kia’s head of Color, Materials, and FInish design Marília Biill said in a news release. "The material can be grown in any shape you want using a mold. The use of Mycelium is still at a very early stage, and, as part of Kia’s sustainability strategy, we are working with partners to accelerate [the] development of the material." In other words, Kia hopes to do more of this over time.
Visually, the EV3 Concept follows the same playbook as some of its big brothers: it’s basically an EV9 or EV5 but about the size of a Kia Niro. It’s going to be a crucial part of Kia’s plans to vastly expand its EV lineup to more than 1 million global sales by 2026 and to ultimately have EVs make up almost 40 percent of its global sales by 2030. That should also make the production EV3 the smallest member of the Hyundai Motor Group’s E-GMP platform yet, though there’s no word yet on battery sizes or specs – including whether it will use the 800-volt architecture for ultra-fast charging like the EV6 and EV9 or only go with a more conventional 400-volt architecture like the EV5 will have.
By the way, if you’re curious about where this leaves the Kia Niro EV, Kia’s global product team leader Min Woo Park told me it’s not going anywhere. "We still believe there are customers who will look for more affordable EVs, like Niro. We’ll still keep our strategy [going] for that," he said.
What’s less clear is whether the EV3 is coming to the US or not. "We’re still studying that," Park said, which is the same story with the EV4. It’s also unclear whether the production-spec EV3 will be built in North America or not, like at Hyundai’s Metaplant in Georgia or Alabama where the Genesis Electrified GV70 is made. If it’s not made here, it won’t qualify for the $7,500 tax credits unless it’s leased. Kia’s still studying that, too.
Either way, the EV3 Concept is going to be a real car someday, and if the EV5 and EV9 Concepts before it are any indication, the real thing should look awfully close to this. I look forward to hearing more as this develops, and let’s keep our fingers crossed for that rear bench seat, shall we?