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Kia finds its first customer for the modular electric vehicle PV5: Uber

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Kia and Uber have signed a memorandum of understanding to use the newly announced modular electric vehicles (EVs) called PBV (Platform Beyond Vehicle) by the automaker for Uber's ride-hailing service.

PBV, which stands for Platform Beyond Vehicle, was unveiled during CES in Las Vegas as a family of electric vehicles built on a flexible vehicle architecture with various interchangeable body types. The vehicle can be transformed from a minivan to a large van or a small truck, depending on specific needs, with the driver's cabin remaining fixed while the rest of the vehicle is interchangeable.

One of the potential variants is the PV5, a midsize electric van designed by Kia for ride-hailing, delivery, and utilities. Uber intends to offer the PV5 as an option for its drivers as part of its commitment to transition fully to electric vehicles in all markets by 2040.

Uber states that the purpose of the agreement with Kia is to "identify optimal specifications for PBV models, with potential further integration of technology and services for the benefit of ride-hail drivers and users." The two companies will collaborate on creating "proofs of concept, prototypes, and tailored PBV production for the needs of drivers using the Uber platform."

Uber is under pressure from governments worldwide to transition more drivers to EVs to reduce exhaust emissions and combat climate change. However, convincing hundreds of thousands of Uber drivers to switch to electric vehicles won't be an easy task. Ride-hailing drivers are classified as independent contractors, and many use their own cars to drive for multiple gig economy companies. Uber cannot simply force all its drivers to make the switch without jeopardizing their freelance status.

Conor Ferguson, a spokesperson for Uber, stated that the company will have more to say about financing the purchase of Kia's PBV vehicles closer to their availability.

Currently, Uber works with automakers to offer flexible EV leasing options and incentives like additional bonuses for every trip made with an electric vehicle. Uber claims to have over 74,000 drivers using electric vehicles in North America and Europe.

Previously, Uber had entered into an agreement with the British startup Arrival to acquire its electric vehicles, but that company is currently struggling to stay afloat.