Kia Bares Its Soul EV in Chicago

Charles Murray

February 11, 2014

4 Min Read
Kia Bares Its Soul EV in Chicago

Kia Motors laid the foundation for an electric future last week, rolling out the battery-powered Soul EV at the Chicago Auto Show.

Targeted directly at lower-cost competitors, such as the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric, the Soul EV features a 27 kWh lithium-ion battery and a driving range of about 80 to 100 miles. It also serves as a means for Kia to gather experience in the electric market before California's zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate kicks in during 2018.

"We wanted to turn in our homework early and get started with electric vehicles before the mandate in 2018," Steve Kosowski, manager for Kia's long-range strategy, told Design News. "That gets our dealers familiar with the technology and helps us develop a core competence."

Click on the KIA Soul EV to start the slideshow.

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The new car features a chassis like that of the Tesla Model S, in which the battery cells reside in a long, flat tray at the bottom of the vehicle. To do that, Kia engineers employed a high-energy-density lithium-ion chemistry with a nickel-cobalt-manganese cathode. The chemistry delivers 200 Wh/kg at the cell level and about 97 Wh/kg at the pack level, making it significantly more energetic than that of the Leaf but less than that of the Tesla Model S battery.

"The usable space in the cabin is virtually identical to the gasoline version of the Soul, and that's because the battery is purely underneath the car," Rob Scholer, senior service engineer for product quality at Kia, told us.

In contrast to the thousands of 18650-sized cylindrical batteries employed in the Tesla Model S, the Soul EV uses 96 prismatic batteries. Doing so enables it to individually monitor the conditions of each cell, rather than monitoring modules containing multiple cells.

The battery will be air cooled, with vents front and back, allowing air to flow through the pack before being exhausted near the rear hatch. Kia engineers say the integrated battery will make the chassis stiffer than that of the gasoline version of the Soul. It will also lower the car's center of gravity, promoting safety.

Using an AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motor, Soul EV will produce a peak of 109 HP and 210 lb-ft of torque.

Kia will release the Soul EV in California and Oregon in August. The vehicle will then hit the streets in New Jersey, New York, and Maryland in spring of 2015. No price has yet been announced.

Releasing the Soul EV now gives Kia four years to begin dealing with the upcoming California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandate. The mandate calls for 4.5 percent of a manufacturer's sales to be EVs and plug-in hybrids by 2018. In 2025, the figure is scheduled to rise to 15 percent. Seven other states -- Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont -- announced in November that they would also adopt the ZEV mandate. "We're figuring that by 2025, there should be about three-and-a-half million ZEVs on the road, just from these various ZEV mandates," David Clegern of CARB told us.

Today, pure electrics and plug-in hybrids make up less than 1 percent of the overall US auto market. Kia executives stressed, however, that the company foresees potential growth on the horizon for electrics. "We're starting to see acceptance," Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning for Kia, told Design News. "Buyers may not be embracing the technology yet, but they're beginning to consider it."

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About the Author(s)

Charles Murray

Charles Murray is a former Design News editor and author of the book, Long Hard Road: The Lithium-Ion Battery and the Electric Car, published by Purdue University Press. He previously served as a DN editor from 1987 to 2000, then returned to the magazine as a senior editor in 2005. A former editor with Semiconductor International and later with EE Times, he has followed the auto industry’s adoption of electric vehicle technology since 1988 and has written extensively about embedded processing and medical electronics. He was a winner of the Jesse H. Neal Award for his story, “The Making of a Medical Miracle,” about implantable defibrillators. He is also the author of the book, The Supermen: The Story of Seymour Cray and the Technical Wizards Behind the Supercomputer, published by John Wiley & Sons in 1997. Murray’s electronics coverage has frequently appeared in the Chicago Tribune and in Popular Science. He holds a BS in engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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