Home » Kia’s Modular Vehicle Concept Is Like The Nissan Pulsar EXA Of The Future

Kia’s Modular Vehicle Concept Is Like The Nissan Pulsar EXA Of The Future

Kia Easy Swap Ts
ADVERTISEMENT

Car shows seem to be going through a rough transition these days, with automakers downsizing their stands or pulling out entirely in some cases. Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Show seems to be the hottest place for automakers to reveal their latest concepts and ideas. Kia has done just that with its new PBV concept, a modular EV that appears to be very much from the future.

The whole concept is about component modules that can be removed and swapped out to change the vehicle’s body style and use case.  This is enabled by what Kia is calling “Easy Swap Technology.” This technology enables “the flexible interchange of PBV upper bodies, or life modules.”

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Kia demos the PBV with a video showing people asking the vehicle to take on various tasks, from acting as a rideshare to serving as a pop-up fashion store. The Kia even gets a little razzing from a pair of rambunctious warehouse guys. Man, I bet those two are a real laugh to work with. What a pair of characters!

Not going to lie, a vehicle with swappable “life modules” sounds cool. It reminds us of the Nissan Pulsar NX (or EXA in the rest of the world), which could swap between being a coupe, a targa, a station wagon, or a cabriolet, with just a few panels changed. Here check it out:

ADVERTISEMENT

30272

30263

Sp00060015

In the case of the Kia, though, it’s a bit more optimized for working uses rather than just fun. So how does it actually work?

ADVERTISEMENT

Coupling between “life modules” and the vehicle itself is achieved via claw-type plates mounted on the exchangeable modules. A bar on the vehicle slots into this claw and is rotated to lock into place, fixing the module to the vehicle.

Kia has shown off a range of life modules on the PBV platform. Videos include a pickup tray module, a cargo van module and a passenger van module with windows.

It’s a neat trick, but is it actually useful? By and large, the world has gotten by okay by simply building vehicles with different body styles. It’s hard to imagine a company buying a pickup bed version and then keeping a cargo van module around as well. It’s easier to imagine a family perhaps using the passenger van style, switching to the open bed for those wild trips to IKEA. But again, the idea of where they’d store a spare module the rest of the time is an open question.

Given the fact that specialized equipment is likely needed to lift and fit the modules, swapping them out is perhaps meant to be handled at a depot of some kind. I suppose a great use case would be for a freewheeling family man who one day finds himself divorced and alone when his ex-partner takes the kids. “Easy come, easy go,” he says to himself, as he drives down to the Kia depot to swap out his minivan module for a pickup bed for tailgating with his old college friends. Okay, I’m into it. I see the value now.

The Kia Concept PV1 is the baby of the range—Kia terms it a “compact PBV with grand capabilities.” The concept is shown as being able to pivot all four wheels so it can spin in place, drive diagonally, or pivot with the rear wheel fixed.  Like so many similar concepts before, it’s demonstrated as a great solution for navigating in tight urban environments. It’s also got active suspension that can raise, lower, and tilt the platform. Kia shows us that this is a boon for cross-loading cargo from a larger van into the PV1’s rear. “It’s definitely something to look forward to,” says the video. Does that mean it’s actually planned for reality, and not just renders? Indeed, it seems Kia could be thinking along those very lines.

ADVERTISEMENT

 

Meanwhile, the Kia Concept PV5 is a larger model approximating a van. We see it being used as a pedestrian transport vehicle with a customizable interior. Its seats fold in various configurations, allowing face-to-face conversations or convenient transport for wheelchair users. It also has a neat “tile system” for adding accessories like tables or cupholders or even shoe cabinets. Kia also touts the use of transparent solar panels in the roof to help provide charge for the battery and power for the interior. Anyone can tell you that solar cells can’t provide very much power to a vehicle, even on a sunny day, but they’re included on this concept nonetheless.

Interiorpv

Interiorpve

ADVERTISEMENT

One thing we do love is the large display on the front of the vehicle. In the various videos for the concepts, the display is used to communicate the intentions of the vehicle when driving autonomously. It’s also used to show a booking number for a rideshare customer, which seems pretty convenient, too. I’m not entirely sure big external displays will ever be a thing with cars; we’ve had the technology for decades and never decided to use it. It could be that autonomous vehicles are the killer app for this technology that makes them mainstream.

There’s also a high-roof cargo version of the concept, called the PV5 High Roof. It’s a neat-looking electric van with a cabinet racking system for storing packages for delivery. It has a sandwich storage compartment in the glovebox which feels incredibly cartoony for something Kia seems otherwise pretty serious about. Otherwise, though, we get to see it integrating with the PV1, with the PV5 directly delivering a payload into the back of the smaller vehicle. The idea is that a bunch of PV1s might perform automated last-mile deliveries, fed by larger PV5s. Oh, and a reminder the PV5 can be a pop-up cafe, too, which actually looks really fun.

Kiaoptim

Kiaoptim2
Kia is remarkably confident that sneakes will remain affordable in the near future.

Other materials also feature a family shot showing a “PV7 Concept,” the largest of the bunch. It’s intended to offer the most driving range of the family and the most interior space. It naturally features the same customizable rail interior system as the other models and just generally does the whole modular thing with a bigger footprint.

ADVERTISEMENT

Overall, it seems like interior rail accessories and some other parts may be swappable across the PBV range. However, we’d expect the large drop-in body swaps to be more restricted. For example, you’re not gonna get a PV7 cargo module on a PV5 chassis, or a PV5 van module to sit on a PV1.

21644 Kia Pbv Concept Lineup

So far, so many renders, right? Well, here’s the thing. Kia actually has plans for an assembly plant dedicated to PBV production. It’s intended to be built in Kia’s Autoland Hwaseong campus in Korea. Slated to fire up in 2025, it’s set to build up to 150,000 vehicles a year. Phase one of Kia’s PBV roadmap will see the PV5 enter production, with phase two filling out the rest of the lineup. Phase three is a little more vague. We’re told that “Kia PBVs are expected to evolve into highly customizable, bespoke mobility solutions by integrating with the future mobility ecosystem.”

21676 Kia Launches Platform Beyond Vehicle Business At Ces 2024 To Go Beyond
Kia had a full-size Concept PV5 on show at CES. Pictured are Pierre-Martin Bos, Vice President and BDM Director, Ho Sung Song, President and CEO, and Karim Habib, Executive Vice President and Head of Kia Global.

I may poke a little fun at Kia’s work here; there’s plenty to chuckle at, whether it’s the sandwich nook or some of the zanier ideas about how these vehicles could work. Fundamentally, though, I want to see this happen. I want Kia to make a bunch of rad EV vans and hatchbacks that all work together in some lovely harmonious system, zipping cargo and hot lunches across town. I don’t necessarily believe there’s a great business case for bodyswapping a pure cargo van by day into a rideshare vehicle by night, sure. But the modular interiors sound awesome, and the vehicles all look really sharp. PBV isn’t the coolest name though. Work to be done there.

Ultimately, we deserve more vehicles that look like they’re from the future. Even better if they’re super useful, too. Let’s see if Kia can pull this off.

ADVERTISEMENT

Image credits: Kia

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
28 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Box Rocket
Box Rocket
3 months ago

I generally like the concept (especially the giant front turn signals, we need more of that), but even GM didn’t bother with producing the HyWire, so I’m curious if it’ll come to pass.

Then again, Hyundai/Kia has a lot more chutzpah than GM did then, despite the GDI engine issues of late. Though the faster folks adopt EVs, the fewer complicated engines they have to make.

Last edited 3 months ago by Box Rocket
Tony D
Tony D
3 months ago

Uh, oh Canoo.

Pedro
Pedro
3 months ago

It’s like the Canoo of today – very much like the Canoo…hmmmm.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

That wagon pulsar is so awesome.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
3 months ago

So what I’m hearing is I need to buy a Pulsar and fabricate a truck bed module for it.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
3 months ago

I predict the whole modular body thing will go nowhere for a number of reasons.

Let’s say you have one of these with two bodies. When you’re using one, where do you store the other?

And I can also see this being problematic from a crash safety, regulatory and theft perspectives.

For crash safety, does ‘easy to remove’ also mean ‘easily flies off’ in a crash’?

And from a regulatory perspective… given it can have a ‘truck’ or ‘car’ body, how will the EPA classify it?

And from a theft perspective, ‘easy to remove’ body suggests to me ‘easy to steal’ body. Consider that pickup truck tailgate theft is a thing because they are also easy to remove.

Think about that for a minute.. you come out to your parked PBV car-truck and some asshole has stolen the body and the stuff inside!!!

Mind you the ‘easy to steal’ thing seems to be a Hyundai-Kia tradition.

Nah… this modular concept has ‘bad idea’ written all over it from my perspective.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
3 months ago

Remember Mercedes-Benz SLs up to 2002 had removable hardtops that were relatively easy to remove, but never “easily flew off” in a crash – in fact they were designed with rollovers in mind. Folks kept them in their garage on a stand or in a hanging crane sort of rack.

This is just the same thing on a larger scale.

Tony D
Tony D
3 months ago

Came here to make the T-top point as well, Truck bed covers too for that matter. I do agree that storing these will be an issue, but the use case seemed directed at commercial or autonomous fleet use vs. private ownership. that said what would prevent Kia dealers or U-Haul from renting out the various modules?

Baron Usurper
Baron Usurper
3 months ago

These’ll be on the market 2-3 years after those robotaxis that are due out in 2020.

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
3 months ago

These are like removable hardtops for convertibles, only waaaay bigger. Storing the unused attachments will remain “the gorilla in the room” since most users/buyers really don’t need (or will actually utilize) that much flexibility. It would be/is far easier to just rent a unique vehicle whenever the rare occasion arises (see U-Haul!) instead of having random bodies lying around (see the amount of money spent/wasted on storing personal RVs . . .).

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago

It looks like the people depicted are also modular.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

Build the modules out of Legos, then just store the pieces in a toy box when not in use or make a Millennium Falcon or something. The downside is you’re going to need a child’s help to reconstruct the modules. And you will lose pieces over time.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
3 months ago

The modular vehicle is a concept that pops up every twenty years or so, and arguably was most successful with the model T. It looked like GM was going to give it a chance in 2002 with the Hy-Wire/Skateboard, and are/did reconsider with Ultium platform.

VanGuy
VanGuy
3 months ago

If a high-roof passenger van layout comes to market, it’ll be nice for there to be another player in that market niche, let alone an EV. Would be nice to finally have some foreign brand van options again.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
3 months ago

What’s with the recurring bland white sneakers? Is that going to be a big thing in the near future? Must be, since Kia wants to offer you an in-car showcase for them.

And I don’t want to imagine what that glovebox is going to smell like after it retained a long forgotten chicken teriyaki footlong.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
3 months ago
Reply to  OCS-BN

Mmmm. Chicken teriyaki.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

So the suspension can tilt the vehicle? Enough to turn it into a dump truck? It would be kinda cool to roll one of the larger ones up to a smaller one, back-to-back, raise the front of the big one, and just slide a pallet into the smaller one.

DadBod
DadBod
3 months ago

I wonder if the modular thing makes production much easier and cheaper, even if customers never swap them out.

Last edited 3 months ago by DadBod
Drew
Drew
3 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

Yeah, this feels like the sort of thing that is pitched as a feature, but is more of a byproduct. In which case, it really works. Make me a cheap EV van or pickup or whatever. Swapping bodies could also mean repairs could be easier/cheaper.

It could also be sold to dealers as a pivot for service departments–instead of oil changes, body changes, but I don’t think anyone would expect people to regularly swap enough to make that profitable.

Given the subscription model everyone wants to push, I could see it being an attempt at making monthly fee to have access to the different parts, and that comes with two changes a month. The Plus plan comes with 4. The poorly-named Unlimited plan is auto-enrolled and must be cancelled within the first year to avoid paying, and it comes with 8 swaps, because they don’t want someone coming in every day for a swap every day. A few people pay for the subscription, most of them never use it, and they profit.

Timbales
Timbales
3 months ago

I can see the potential for this for fleet vehicles dispatched from a central location, especially if fully autonomous vehicles every reach their real potential.

For private ownership, I can see buying one set-up and renting modules from a dealership or something as needed.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Timbales

That sounds like a lot of work – if you own the pickup model and want to take a trip with the family, you now have to go online, find a Kia dealer that has a van module in stock and available for the dates you want, schedule a service appointment, take time off work, and spend several hours ignoring salesmen waiting for the swap job to be finished. And also probably have to deal with the next available appointment being ca 3-4 weeks after your vacation

Or you can just buy a minivan and fold down the back seats and roll out a tarp whenever you want to do light duty pickup stuff.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
3 months ago

It looks nifty, but is anyone else getting Plymouth Voyager III vibes?

https://95octane.com/2022/10/03/1990-plymouth-voyager-iii-concept/

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
3 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

Mother of god.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

How can I delete someone else’s post

ExAutoJourno
ExAutoJourno
3 months ago

Will U-Stor-It locations remodel to allow customers a place to lodge their Body Modules?

I can’t see the average garage — or even many larger-than-average garages — accommodating them.

Did anyone actually buy the alternative panels for their Pulsar NXes? I don’t recall ever seeing any of the “wagonback” shells except at car shows.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

Did anyone actually buy the alternative panels for their Pulsar NXes? I don’t recall ever seeing any of the “wagonback” shells except at car shows.

I once saw one on I-170 in St. Louis back in 2006. The shape of it compelled me to immediately research its drag coefficient when I got home, because I never seen it before or knew of its existence. I was disappointed to find the value range from 0.37-0.39, because that wagonback made it look slippery.

It was all style, no substance.

Nissan could have done much better. They showcased the mid-engined AD-1 concept in 1974. This had a drag coefficient of 0.26, weighed 1,600 lbs, and with a 90 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, it would have been a strong performer for the era given these specs.

Last edited 3 months ago by Toecutter
Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
3 months ago
Reply to  ExAutoJourno

I can’t see the average garage — or even many larger-than-average garages — accommodating them.

I feel like these are targeted at commercial customers rather than commuters.

Toecutter
Toecutter
3 months ago

These designs are the result of Kia backing British startup Arrival.

They also look suspiciously similar to the designs by the Canoo EV startup.

28
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x