This year's coronavirus pandemic will forever alter the way cars are designed, according to Kia's design boss – who says the South Korean carmaker is exploring the use of anti-viral materials and the creation of cars specifically for shared mobility.
In an interview with Car Magazine, Karim Habib, the current head of design for Kia, said the virus had inspired his team to rethink car design entirely, from the kinds of materials used, to structural changes to accommodate permanent social distancing.
"We're going to have talks with psychologists and anthropologists to really understand how the public’s psyche is going to be in future," said Mr Habib, who previously held the role of head of design for Infiniti before joining Kia in mid-2019.
"There are things we've already been talking about: can we have anti-viral coatings in our interiors? Can you use temperature or ultraviolet light to sanitise surfaces? These are things that we will have to think about rather soon.
"So, yes – Covid-19 will very much influence the way we design our cars in future."
Mr Habib also echoed comments from Kia Motors' Europe COO, Emilio Herrera, who said the carmaker was planning an all-electric, short-range micro vehicle that could replace, or supplement, public transport in the age of self-isolation and social distancing.
"For the last few years we have been talking about a sharing economy, shared mobility and public transportation. We will have to see how that develops right now, because of social distancing," Mr Habib said.
"What does this mean for cars? I think we'll have to wait and see – right now we are trying to expand our understanding of what this might mean – not only the types of vehicles we drive, but also how to design vehicles for shared mobility, or not, as the case may be."
Kia's sister brand, Hyundai, also announced in May 2020 that it was exploring ways to makes car interiors "virus-proof", including implementing removable, washable seat covers, using antifouling materials on key touchpoints or adding UV lamps to cars.
"HMG is developing self-sterilizing materials to maintain clean, antiviral, and antibacterial cabins," Hyundai Motor Group said in a statement on its global website.
"The most promising technology so far is using UltraViolet (UV) lamps. HMG is planning to develop an interior cabin light that also contains a sterilization feature."