After announcing late last year that it planned to electrify its Soul and unleash it on the global market, Kia has debuted the vehicle at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show. When it hits US showrooms from Q3 2014 and Europe and the UK after that, the Soul EV will be Kia's first electric vehicle to be sold outside the Korean automaker's home country.
The Soul EV packs a 360 V 96-cell lithium-ion polymer battery that powers an 81.4 kW (109 hp) electric motor generating 210 lb-ft (285 Nm) of torque. Power is delivered to the front wheels via a single-speed, constant-ratio gear reduction unit, with Kia claiming the 27 kWh, air-cooled battery should give the vehicle a range of around 80 to 100 miles (129 to 161 km) under real-world driving conditions, helped by a regenerative braking system that can capture up to 12 percent of the car's kinetic energy.
The battery can be charged via a standard 120 V outlet or a conventional 240 V EV charger, with two charging ports coming as standard. There's a SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC, and a CHAdeMo DC fast-charging port (480 V), both of which are located behind a sliding door in the front grille. A standard 120 V outlet will need around 24 hours to charge a fully depleted battery, while a 240 V outlet will get the job done in under five. A 50-kW output charger can also get the battery to 80 percent capacity in around half an hour.
The battery is located under the floor, which is designed to provide extra stability by lowering the vehicle's center of gravity and helps keep the reduction in cabin space to a loss of 3.1 inches (8 cm) of legroom in the rear and 5.1 cu.-ft (144 L) less rear cargo space in comparison to the non-EV Soul. Additional cross bracing beneath the battery pack also improves torsional rigidity by 5.9 percent over the non-EV Soul.
The carmaker says that use of multi-layer magnets in the liquid-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnet motor not only improve efficiency, but also reduce the "whine" that most other electric vehicles generate. Kia has also used special soundproofing materials to help ensure a quiet ride, with a Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS) that sounds an alert for pedestrians when the vehicle is traveling at under 12 mph (19 km/h) or in reverse.
Kia has also paid particular attention to the use of eco-friendly materials, with bio-based plastics derived from cellulose and sugar cane found in everything from the door panels and headliner, to the seat trim, roof pillars and carpeting, while BTX-free paint adorns the audio system surround, vent bezel and the floor console. There are even antibacterial materials used on the gear selector, audio and HVAC controls, instrument panel switchgear and the floor-mounted center console.
In addition to an 8-inch capacitive touch-navigation screen that provides a home for downloadable apps and Kia's UVO EV Services that is introduced for the first time on the Soul EV, there's a 3.5-inch OLED display that provides energy flow, charging time, ECO driving level and energy economy of the vehicle. These are in addition to other standard features, including navigation, Rear Camera Display, Bluetooth hands free operation, power windows, power driver’s seat, cruise control, 6.6 kW on-board charger and an exclusive HVAC system designed to extend driving range by minimizing energy draw.
Kia will initially sell the Soul EV in regions of the US with the best EV infrastructure, including California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Maryland, with plans to extend availability as infrastructure and demand grows. Sales in Europe and the UK will follow the US release, with pricing set be announced closer to the vehicle's launch.