|Hyundai Motor Kona Electric / Korea Times file|
By Kwak Yeon-soo
Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors saw their all-electric vehicle (EV) sales more than double in the first quarter on strong domestic and overseas demand, Korea's leading automakers said Sunday.
EVs obtain electricity from external sources ― charging stations ― and hold it in rechargeable batteries.
The companies said sales of EVs surged 159 percent to 21,148 between January and March from the previous year.
The brisk EV sales have been driven by solid overseas performance.
The number of EVs sold abroad more than tripled to 16,162 in the first quarter from the previous year's 4,905. The triple number comes after the recent international launch of the Hyundai Kona Electric.
Their domestic sales also rose to 4,986 from 3,247 during the same period.
The companies said sales got a boost from the release of electric versions of their popular SUVs including Hyundai's Kona and Kia's Niro.
"We will further advance our competitiveness with the launch of the refreshed Soul EV, supplemented with upgraded versions of Kona, Ioniq and Niro EVs," a Hyundai Motor official said.
The spike in EVs indicates the uptake of eco-friendly cars is growing steadily in the industry since they reduce emissions.
Apart from all-EVs, eco-friendly vehicles include gasoline hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell electric vehicles.
The two companies reported they sold total 75,242 eco-friendly vehicles in the January-to-March period, up 20.2 percent from last year.
Domestic sales rose 17.2 percent to 20,540, while overseas sales rose 21.3 percent to 54,702.
In March alone, sales of eco-friendly vehicles in Korea reached 3,871 with the overseas market hitting 5,444 sales.
By brand, Kona Electric sold 5,199, followed by Niro EV at 1,653, Ioniq at 1,567, and the new Soul EV at 677.
Earlier, Hyundai and Kia Motors said they will have 38 eco-friendly cars in their lineups by 2025, including 14 EVs, with the aim of becoming one of the world's three largest electric carmakers combined and the top two eco-friendly vehicle producers.
According to industry sources, Korea's EV exports are likely to increase in coming years as more countries are working on the popularization of EVs and this type of vehicle is expected to be more connected than before with autonomous driving technology.
On the sidelines, Kia Motors said on Sunday it has sold nearly 15 million SUVs and minivans in global markets.