Kia has unveiled its first ever mass-production electric vehicle, the Soul EV at the Chicago Auto Show.
Set to go on sale in the United States market in third quarter of 2014 and in Europe and the UK after that, the Soul EV will be Kia’s first all-electric, zero-emissions car sold in the U.S. and expands the brand’s line of environmentally ‘green’ vehicles.
The Soul EV joined the refreshed 2014 Optima Hybrid on stage along with the Niro hybrid concept.
A top concern for EV buyers has commonly been range anxiety. The Soul’s 27kWh, air-cooled, 200 watt-hour/kg battery is expected to yield a range of approximately 80-100 miles of real-world driving on a full charge, with internal testing and evaluation results exceeding 100 miles in some instances according to Kia.
Located beneath the floor, the 360 volt 96-cell lithium-ion polymer battery features a nickel-cobalt-manganese cathode, which Kia says helps increase capacity, and a graphite-based anode, which increases durability while reducing weight.
The car uses Kia’s third-generation regenerative braking system to capture up to 12 per cent of the car’s kinetic energy, which is fed back into the battery while the car is coasting and braking.
The Soul EV can be plugged into any standard 120v outlet or a conventional 240v EV charger. Two charging ports are standard, including a SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC, and a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port (480v). The dual ports are found behind a sliding door located in the front grille, with recharge times varying from 24 hours for a fully depleted battery using a standard 120-volt outlet and under five hours when plugged into a 240-volt outlet. An 80-per cent charge can be achieved in under 35 minutes with a 50 kW-output charger.
Powered by an 81.4 kW, 109-hp electric motor, producing 210 lb.-ft. of torque, the front-wheel drive car accelerates from 0-60 mph in less than 12 seconds with a top speed electronically limited to approximately 90 mph. The battery’s location beneath the floor helps lower the car’s centre of gravity, while additional cross bracing beneath the battery contributes to a 5.9 per cent increase in torsional rigidity over the petrol or diesel-powered Souls, claims Kia.
For the benefit of pedestrian safety, the Soul EV is equipped with a Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS) that emits an auditory alert at speeds below 12 mph and whenever the car is in reverse.
On the inside, because of the battery’s flat design and location beneath the floor, there is a slight 3.1-inch reduction to rear seat leg room (from 39.1 to 36 inches) from the non-EV Soul. Rear shoulder and hip room remain unchanged from the petrol and diesel-powered Souls. However, rear luggage space is impacted (reduced 5.1 cu.-ft. to 19.1) as the space under the boot floor is utilised for the battery cooling fan and storage of the standard 120v portable charger.
The Soul’s exterior design is also found on the EV. From the “floating” roof to the greenhouse, the EV’s look is inspired by the 2012 Kia Track’ster concept and retains the square-shouldered stance of the original Soul.
The EV-exclusive front-end features a larger grille to accommodate the charging ports, and the Soul EV also gets its own set of 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped with specially designed Super Low Rolling Resistance (SLRR) tyres that offer 10 per cent less resistance than standard low rolling resistance tyres, helping to improve range.
The Optima Hybrid, meanwhile, has received front and rear fascia updates designed to increase aerodynamic efficiency, new wheel designs, and reworked grille and lighting elements.
There are currently no plans to bring the Optima Hybrid to the UK market