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 conscious vehicles. The Soul EV joined the refreshed Optima Hybrid illustrating Kia’s intent to lead the industry in providing technologically advanced vehicles that also reduce dependency on non-renewable resources.
Kia’s eco-friendly commitment was further underscored when UL (Underwriters Laboratories) 2 honoured the Soul EV with the organization’s first automotive environmental validation for its integration of more than 20 bio-friendly materials.
High Energy Density Battery and Usable Power
A top concern for EV buyers has commonly been range anxiety. The Soul EV addresses this issue by utilizing a highly energy-dense lithium-ion polymer battery. Located beneath the floor, the 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.
The 360 volt 96-cell lithium-ion polymer battery has been engineered for high capacity, thermal stability and safety. Accordingly, the battery features a nickel-cobalt-manganese cathode, which helps increase capacity, and a graphite-based anode, which increases durability while reducing weight. Additionally, the cells use a gel electrolyte, and each cell contains ceramic separators to significantly improve thermal stability and safety.
In an effort to maximize efficiency and range, the Soul EV uses Kia’s third-generation regenerative braking system to capture up to 12 percent of the car’s kinetic energy, which is fed back into the battery while the Soul EV is coasting and braking. Soul EV owners can choose between four different regeneration modes: “Drive” or “Brakes” modes in Eco-mode “Off,” and “Drive” or “Brakes” modes in Eco-mode “On” (the “Brakes” setting with Eco-mode “On” producing the most regeneration).
The Soul EV makes charging easy by plugging 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). Found behind a sliding door located in the front grille, the dual ports offer flexibility and increase the Soul EV’s go-anywhere appeal, making it more convenient to charge inside the owner’s garage or when on the road. Recharging times vary 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-percent charge can be achieved in as little as 33 minutes with a 50 kW-output charger.
Kia has partnered with three charger providers – Bosch, Leviton and AeroVironment™ – which give Soul EV buyers an opportunity to select the unit best suited to their in-home needs.
The front-wheel drive Soul EV is powered by an 81.4 kW, 109-hp electric motor, producing a generous 210 lb.-ft. of torque. The liquid-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnet motor uses multi-layer magnets to help improve efficiency and reduce the whine that’s commonly experienced with other electric vehicles.
The motor delivers its power to the front wheels through a single-speed constant-ratio gear reduction unit. Acceleration from 0-60 mph is expected to take fewer than 12 seconds with a top speed electronically limited to approximately 90 mph. The battery’s location beneath the floor offers the stable feel of a lower centre of gravity, which helps ride and handling and ensures that the EV remains true to the Soul’s fun-to-drive reputation. Additional cross bracing beneath the low-mounted battery contributes to a 5.9 percent improvement in torsional rigidity over the petrol or diesel-powered Souls.
Improved aerodynamics and the absence of engine noise, combined with special sound-proofing materials, result in an exceptionally quiet ride. 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.
Minimal Battery Intrusion
The Soul EV offers plenty of space inside the cabin thanks to minimal battery intrusion. Because of the battery’s flat design and location beneath the floor, there is only a slight 3.1-inch reduction to rear seat leg room (from 39.1 to 36 inches) from the non-EV Soul, yet Soul EV still offers more rear seat leg room than other key EV competitors. Rear shoulder and hip room remain unchanged from the petrol and diesel-powered Souls, making Soul EV one of the roomiest in the segment. Rear luggage space is minimally impacted (reduced 5.1 cu.-ft. to 19.1) as the space under the boot floor is utilized for the battery cooling fan and storage of the standard 120v portable charger.
Uniquely Designed Inside and Out
The Soul’s bold exterior design is also found on the EV. From the “floating” roof to the greenhouse that makes the car look like it is wearing wraparound sunglasses, the EV’s look is inspired by the 2012 Kia Track’ster concept and retains the iconic square-shouldered broad stance of the original Soul.
Initially, the Soul EV will be offered in three colour choices: Pearl White lower body with Electronic Blue roof, Caribbean Blue lower body with Clear White roof, and Bright Silver with Clear White roof. The signature two-tone paint theme is exclusive to the EV and was inspired by a similar treatment seen on the Track’ster.
The EV-exclusive front-end features a larger grille to accommodate the charging ports, and other unique exterior Soul EV design features include colour accent trim in the front and rear panels, projector headlights, LED positioning lamps, and LED tail lights. “Eco Electric” badging replaces the “Soul” badging found on the diesel and petrol-powered cars, and the Soul EV gets its own set of distinctive 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped with specially engineered Super Low Rolling Resistance (SLRR) tires that offer 10 percent less resistance than standard low rolling resistance tyres, helping to improve range.
Revised Optima Hybrid
The Optima Hybrid builds upon the advancements of the previous version of the car.
Debuting with its own exclusive enhancements, including front and rear fascia updates designed to increase aerodynamic efficiency, new wheel designs, and unique grille and lighting elements, the Optima Hybrid improves upon its predecessor, which was named one of the “Top 11 Most Fuel-Efficient Sedans for 2013” by Edmunds.com. in the USA.
Design Enhancements for Better Fuel Efficiency
The dynamic and sporty design upgrades on the gasoline-powered 2014 Optima are retooled for the Hybrid to increase fuel efficiency. Contributing to improved aerodynamics is a series of additional vents in the Optima Hybrid’s unique front bumper, increasing airflow and reducing drag.
Newly designed and more aerodynamic 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels (LX and EX, respectively) reduce weight and drag while superbly integrating with the Optima’s eye-catching new design elements.
In addition to those elements designed with fuel efficiency in mind, the revised Optima Hybrid also boasts a unique new front grille design, Hybrid-exclusive front LED lighting, new Hybrid badging and an attractive and upscale optional white leather package.
There are no plans to bring the Optima Hybrid to the UK marke