Kia will launch an electric version of its small Picanto in Europe within the next three years.

The next generation Picanto goes on sale next year and electric versions will go into production in Korea in 2012.

The Picanto EV will be powered by a 50kw lithium polymer battery, preferred by the South Korean carmaker to lithium-ion because they are smaller and produce more power, according to Chi Young Jeong, senior research engineer at the company’s technical centre in Namyang.

The EV will be among a raft of eco-friendly technologies being rolled out by Kia in the coming months and years.

The Picanto will also be equipped with a new one-litre, three-cylinder engine which in 2012 will be turbocharged to give a ‘hot’ version of the small car 110bhp.

Last year Kia launched an LPG hybrid version of its Forte C segment model in Korea – a precursor to diesel hybrid versions that will come to Europe within the next two years, according to company insiders.

LPG is widely available in South Korea, about half the price of petrol and is used by buses and taxis.

The Forte is the world’s first liquefied petroleum injection hybrid and the company’s first use of the lithium polymer battery.

It is a proprietry hybrid system as Kia did not want to license the technology and will be further developed as a diesel hybrid.

Kia’s plug-in hybrid is currently being trialled by government fleets in South Korea and expected on sale by the end of 2012 or early 2013.

The eco roll-out will be completed when Kia’s hydrogen fuel cell vehicles goes on sale later in the decade.

Joeng said fuel cell vehicles are currently on trial in South Korea and the United States.