Hyundai will begin sales of its first battery-powered electric vehicle in 2016 as well as continuing with the development of fuel cell vehicles.

Both Hyundai and its sister brand Kia are developing pure electric vehicles to combat the introduction of EVs by BMW and Nissan later this year.

Senior vice president Lee Ki-sang told reporters : "There is no clear direction about which eco-friendly cars will win. We are dividing roles of Hyundai and Kia, with Hyundai launching fuel cell cars and Kia focusing on electric cars."

Kia starts building the Soul EV in Korea next month. The car will be the pair's first battery-powered EV export, with destinations including the US and Europe, targeting 5,000 sales.

In Korea, the Soul EV will cost about half of its KRW42m (US$39,400) price tag after government subsidies, similar to the high-end versions of the petrol version.

The car has a range of up to 148km (92 miles). Korean sales of Kia's Ray EV, Renault's SM3 EV and the Chevrolet Spark EV totalled just 713 vehicles last year, industry data showed. Hyundai's BlueOn is used only by government agencies.