(Recasts, adds U.S. zero-emission rule)
* Fuel-cell focused Hyundai answers calls for more
* Battery focused Kia likely to sell fuel-cell car in the
* Kia aims to sell 5,000 Soul EVs globally this year
By Hyunjoo Jin
HWASEONG, South Korea, March 11 Hyundai Motor Co
, South Korea's champion of fuel-cell electric
vehicles (EV), will answer calls for manufacturers to make more
zero-emission cars by launching its first rechargeable
battery-powered vehicle in 2016.
Hyundai, like Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp, has
long concentrated on fuel-cell vehicles powered by electricity
generated using hydrogen, touting their longer driving range and
shorter refill times.
But like Toyota, Hyundai is expanding its offering by also
investing in battery-powered cars - the staple green offering of
Hyundai affiliate Kia Motors Corp.
"There is no clear direction about which eco-friendly cars
will win. We are dividing the roles of Hyundai and Kia, with
Hyundai launching fuel cell cars and Kia focusing on electric
cars," said Senior Vice President Lee Ki-sang, who leads the
eco-friendly car divisions of both Hyundai and Kia.
"But the time will come when Kia will introduce a fuel-cell
car. Hyundai is also preparing to launch a (battery-powered)
electric car in 2016."
Zero-emission vehicles are likely to become a more frequent
sight as governments devise environment-friendly initiatives.
California, for instance, requires auto makers produce a certain
percentage of zero-emission vehicles as part of their overall
fleet or buy credits from manufacturers who have produced more.
Kia, 34 percent owned by Hyundai, has favoured
battery-powered cars because they can be charged at home as well
as at charging stations. Fuel-cell cars must be refilled with
hydrogen only at filling stations.
So far, a lack of charging stations and relatively short
driving ranges, as well as high prices resulting from the cost
of batteries, has kept the battery-powered EV market niche.
Korean sales of Kia's Ray EV, Renault SA's SM3 EV
and General Motors Co's Spark EV totalled just 713
vehicles last year, industry data showed. Hyundai's BlueOn is
only used by government agencies.
Even so, the number of battery-powered EVs is on the rise,
as BMW's i3 and Nissan Motor Co Ltd's Leaf
are widely expected to reach Korea this year - as will Kia's
At a news conference on Tuesday, Kia said it will start
building a battery-powered version of its Soul compact in Korea
next month. The car will be Hyundai-Kia's first battery-powered
EV export, with destinations including the U.S. and Europe.
For this year, the global sales target is 5,000 Soul EVs,
said Cho Yong-won, vice president of Kia's Domestic Marketing
In Korea, the Soul EV will cost about half of its 42 million
won ($39,400) price tag after government subsidies, similar to
the higher-end model of the gasoline version.
The car can run up to 148 km (92 miles) per 24 to 33 minute
fast charge or four hours on slow charge.
($1 = 1066.5000 Korean won)
(Additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in BEIJING; Editing
by Christopher Cushing)