Kia Motors Corp. is targeting selling 5,000 electric versions of Soul subcompact annually globally, with the United States being the EV's largest market. Kia will commence selling the Soul EV in the US in the second half of 2014, after starting its sales in South Korea on April 14. The Soul EV will be initially sold in California, Oregon, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
According to Sim Hyun-sung, director of Hyundai Motor Group's eco-vehicle performance development group, the US will be the car's largest market because of the Soul EV's size, government incentives, and more exposure for EVs as prompted by stricter emissions standards.
Hyundai Motor Group, of which Kia is a part, is pursuing a two-prong strategy for its volume brands. While Kia will offer battery-powered EVs, Hyundai will launch hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Kia spokesman Michael Choo remarked that staggered approach to the technology launches allows them “not to put all [their] eggs in one basket."
He quipped that the approach is a way of testing each technology on a global scale. The Soul EV drivetrain was developed at Hyundai Motor Group's r&d center just outside of Seoul. The r&d center is also responsible for all the joint technologies for all Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
Almost all components of the Soul EV are developed in-house – its 81-kW motor, battery pack assembly, control systems and cooling technology.
The battery cell development is still outsourced from SK Innovation Co., a move that allows the group to play the field without overcommitting to a single supplier and technology, according to Sim.
He remarked that the group already has “well-developed, very competitive suppliers." Sim’s largest hurdle has been how to limit costs as well as how to maximize battery life. He remarked that they elected Soul as Kia’s EV nameplate since its boxy proportions allow them to optimize interior space.
When Kia launched the new Soul in 2014, it received praise for the premium interior and the significant reduction in the NVH levels. It is these same characteristics that guarantee that the Soul EV is immediately recognizable. Encompassing the cabin is a circular theme, much like what one can see on this model’s gas-powered sibling. It also gives that excellent contrast on the angular good looks of the exterior. There are features though that make sure the Soul EV is not mistaken for the gas-powered sibling.
An example is the bright white accent trim seen on the door panels, instrument panel, and center console. This feature also gives the passenger space a sense of lightness and modernity. The extensive use of bio-based materials also distinguishes the Soul EV and it is not a surprise to know this model has garnered the first ever automotive environment claim validation from UL for the bio-based organic content in interior plastic amounting to 10.9 pounds.
On the front and the center, the use of the BTX-free paint is evident on the vent bezel, audio system surround, and even the floor console. Bio-based plastics meanwhile can be seen on different areas inside the cabin like the roof pillars, seat trim, carpeting, headliner, and door panels. The plastics are made using cellulose and sugar cane. Meanwhile on the exterior of the EV, it is clear it is based on the bold design of the Soul.
These include the “floating” roof and going all the way to the greenhouse. This gives the model the appearance of wearing wraparound sunglasses. Though the look of the Soul EV is clearly inspired by the brand’s 2012 Track'ster concept, the iconic broad square-shouldered stance of the original Soul is still present. When the Soul EV was first developed, it came in three color choices.
The first is the lower body in White with the roof in Electronic Blue. Second was the lower body in Bright Silver and roof in Clear White. Finally there is the Caribbean Blue with the Clear White roof. Exclusive to the Soul EV though is the signature two-tone paint scheme, which is based largely on the treatment done for the Track'ster. Looking at the front, the EV-exclusive fascia has its grille made larger in order to have room for the charging ports.
There are other exterior design features that are truly unique to the Soul EV like the color accent trim on the model’s front fascia and rear fascia. The trim is present as well on the LED positioning lamps, projector headlights, and the LED tail lights. While the gas-powered sibling had the “Soul” fender garnish, the Soul EV has the "Eco Electric" fender badge. In addition, the Sol EV has been fitted with its own unique alloy 16-inch wheels.
Equipped to the wheels are the Super Low Rolling Resistance tires, or SLRR, which have been specially engineered. Unlike the typical low rolling resistance tires, the SLRR tires offer 10% less resistance and thus enhance the range.