Kia EV3 Coming To America With AI Assistant

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Think of the Kia EV3 as a grown-up, electrified version of the hugely popular Kia Soul. It’s cute, in a chunky sort of way, with room for 5 and lots of stuff. There is a distinct family resemblance to its big brother, the Kia EV9 three-row SUV, but at only 14 feet long, it will fit more easily into smaller parking spaces or leave more room in the garage for things like bicycles, kayaks, and such. Car and Driver applauds its styling, which is friendlier and less aggressive than some other cars available today. “The EV3 is downright adorable, not a mean bone in its body,” it says.

There’s more good news. The Kia EV3 will come to the US with an 81.4 kWh battery that can be recharged from 10 to 80 percent in 31 minutes. Range is projected to be 350 miles or more, depending on trim. The EV3 will be available with a single front-mounted motor capable of moving to 60 mph from rest in a tick over 7 seconds. A dual-motor version has not been confirmed, but the company does say a GT-Line version of the car with distinctive exterior design touches will be offered, so perhaps that is where the dual-motor option will be found.

And the price? Here’s where things get interesting. Car and Driver says they heard from Kia reps at a recent event in Milan that the target price range is $30,000 to $50,000. Will it be eligible for the federal EV point of sale rebate? Yes and no. Yes if you lease one; no if you buy one. The Kia EV3 is not due to arrive in showrooms until 2026, and there could be significant changes in tariffs and incentives by then, so making firm projections is hard to do today, but it looks like the Kia EV3 will be a solid competitor to the upcoming Equinox EV from Chevrolet. Current Kia Soul owners may be sorely tempted to trade in their old car with its infernal combustion four banger for a spiffy new EV3 with one or two electric motors.

Kia EV3 With AI Assistant

Courtesy of Kia

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic today, as the world goes gaga over the idea of software that does our thinking for us. Many people believe it will be an improvement over old-fashioned human intelligence. We shall see, eh? In any event, TechCrunch reports the Kia EV3 will feature a new voice assistant that uses ChatGPT, the text-generating AI chatbot developed by OpenAI. The Kia EV3 with its AI Assistant, will go on sale first in Korea this July, followed by Europe in the second half of the year. Kia expects to expand sales of the Kia EV3 into other regions following the European launch. Car and Driver says not to expect it in the US until 2026, but maybe that is the worst case scenario.  Automakers seem to be very skittish about bringing new electric cars to the US at the moment, but that might change.

Pablo Martinez, the head of customer experience design for Kia, told TechCrunch that although the large language model (LLM) behind the AI assistant is ChatGPT from OpenAI, it has been “heavily modified” and customized by the automaker. These modifications were made to allow customers to plan trips, control the vehicle, and find entertainment — including music or games — through the new Kia Assistant.

Voice assistants in automobiles have a somewhat spotty record so far. It’s not easy training a computer to recognize different accents, never mind different languages. BMW, Kia, Mercedes, and Volkswagen believe generative AI will make voice assistants far more capable and give them the ability to engage with drivers and passengers in a natural conversational way.

Chatter about applying generative AI to vehicles ramped up last year as the topic — and OpenAI — hit the hype stratosphere. Mercedes added the conversational AI-bot to its MBUX infotainment system in June 2023. By January, automakers BMW and Volkswagen were showcasing the technology at the CES tech trade show in Las Vegas. The Kia Assistant first debuted in April in the Kia K4, a new gasoline-powered compact sedan coming to market this summer. The Kia EV3 is the first battery electric vehicle in the company’s portfolio to get the new AI-based Assistant.

Inside The Kia EV3

Kia EV3 interior
Courtesy of Kia

In the interior there is a massive center console, Wired says, that has a slide-out table in the front so the driver and passenger can enjoy a meal or study a map together. The console also has storage area beneath it that can fit a couple of small backpacks. There’s a 30-inch screen on the dash that extends a bit over onto the passenger side so that the person riding shotgun can better access the media and A/C controls. Streaming services and video games come preloaded and a Harman Kardon surround sound audio system has multiple speakers situated throughout the entire car.

The onboard driver assistance features include dynamic torque vectoring for smooth acceleration, lane assist, a collision avoidance system, and a highway self-driving mode (supervised, of course!). There is also a remote parking assistant that can guide the Kia EV3 into a parking space while the driver watches from the curb.

The Takeaway

There has been so much chatter in recent days and months about how the EV revolution is stalling and causing manufacturers to pull back on their battery electric car plans. The EV3 proves all that hand wringing is just a mirage created mostly by anti-EV trolls. We tend to forget that the Covid pandemic totally upended the normal supply and demand dynamics of the auto industry. Suddenly, automakers didn’t have enough cars to meet demand because they couldn’t get the parts to make them. Then, when supply chains got back to normal, they found they were making more cars than there was a demand for.

Today, Bloomberg is reporting that discounts on the cars that dealers have too many of in stock are starting to crop up throughout the industry, including a $10,000 discount on the ultra cool Kia EV6. Think of it as water sloshing around in the bottom of a boat. It swings one way, then the other, and it takes time to stabilize. Wild swings in demand are but one factor that is roiling the new car market today. The incessant drumbeat of anti-EV fever from the fossil fuel industry is another.

The message here is that the EV revolution is alive and well, even if it is experiencing a bit of a pause lately. There is an excellent chance that by the time GM and Mercedes and others get done rushing new hybrid and plug-in hybrid models to market, the demand for EVs like the Kia EV3 will have ramped up again. The wonder is not that the new car market has such wild gyrations. The wonder is that the car companies, with all the market research they have at their disposal, get their sums wrong so often. Relax and charge on!


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