South Korean automotive manufacturer Kia looks set to return to its bicycle-manufacturing roots with the showing of two prototype electric bikes at the Geneva Motor Show. Already given a brand name – Kia Electric Bicycle (KEB) – both prototypes are of the "pedelec" variety, meaning they can be pedaled and powered electrically, with one a "City" and the other a Mountain Bike (MTB).
Kia's beginnings in 1944 were as a bicycle producer and it went on to become Korea's first mass producer of bicycles before growing into one of the world's largest automotive manufacturers. Fittingly, the two prototype KEBs were displayed alongside the company's first globally-available electric vehicle – the Soul EV. Also worth noting is that KEB's bikes will, should production be sanctioned, be manufactured in an innovative fashion.
The bikes originated from Kia’s Namyang Research & Development Centre in Korea, and use a monocoque metal frame that is manufactured by combining an advanced metal stamping technology and a robotic automated welding process.
Kia's new metal stamping technology is a production method specifically developed at the Namyang R&D Centre for manufacturing the KEB’s frame, an indication that production is inevitable. After pressing a metal sheet for each half of the frame, the two are welded together by an automated robotic welding process.
Kia claims a number of significant advantages for the robotic manufacturing process, including a greater choice of metals (metal stamping will allow the frame to be made from aluminum, high-tensile steel or stainless steel), "automotive standard" quality control, a less complex and cheaper manufacturing process, a greater degree of design freedom, and an array of surfacing details that can be added during the pressing of the metal frame.
Both models use the same drivetrain and power pack – a 250 watt hub motor and a 36 volt, 10 amp lithium-ion polymer battery pack which can be removed for charging, and recharged inside four hours from a domestic powerpoint.
Both also weigh around 20 kg (44 lb), have a top speed of 25 kph (15.5 mph), a 40 km (25 mile) range and brake and gear componentry from Shimano.
Source: Kia UK