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Paris show: Kia confirms global Soul EV

Ray of light: Kia’s South Korean Ray EV is providing groundwork for the company’s first global EV, based on the boxy Soul, in 2014.

Kia Motors gets set to plug in its Soul as part of 51-model blitz in four years

Kia logo28 Sep 2012

By RON HAMMERTON in PARIS

KIA is planning an all-electric version of its funky Soul small car as part of ambitious 51-model new vehicle roll-out by 2016.

The EV was confirmed at the Paris motor show by Kia Motors executive vice president and chief operating officer Thomas Oh when unveiling the new Rondo small people-mover – called Carens in Europe – yesterday.

Mr Oh said the Soul EV was scheduled for 2014, and he described it as global, meaning the chances of it making to Australia are high.

To date, Kia has not made any of its electrified vehicles – including the Korean-only Ray EV and Optima Hybrid – in right-hand drive, excluding this market.

Hyundai-Kia Europe powertrain manager Joachim Hahn said there was no mechanical reason that these vehicles could not be made in right-hand drive, meaning the decision to make them only in left-hand drive was based on economic reasons.

The Optima Hybrid has just been launched in Europe where is gets a 2.0-litre petrol engine in the hybrid powertrain that was originally developed as a 2.4-litre unit for the United States.

17 center imageFrom top: Kia Optima Hybrid current Kia Soul Kia Soul hybrid from 2008 Paris motor show.

While that vehicle remains left-hand-drive only for now, Kia has promised more hybrids with wider global applications “as the decade unfolds”.

Likewise, full-electric vehicles are also on the global agenda, starting with the Soul EV that Kia announced yesterday.

Mr Oh said Kia had experienced three consecutive years of double-digital sales growth, with 23 per cent growth in Europe where it was the fastest-growing manufacturer, despite the region’s economic downturn.

The company is not planning to slow down any time soon, with the new-model blitz continuing at the Paris show where the new Rondo and Sorento (both destined for Australia in the next few months) were shown, but also the Europe-only Pro-cee’d small three-door hatch.

No mechanical details of the upcoming Kia Soul EV were announced, but the largely experimental Kia Ray EV that appeared on the Paris motor show stand is powered by the lithium-ion polymer batteries that are also favoured by Kia’s parent company Hyundai.

This formula is said to be 13 per cent lighter than straight lithium-ion as used by rivals such as Nissan and Mitsubishi, while storing 15 per cent more energy.

The Ray’s 16.4kWh battery pack is sufficient for a driving range of up to 139km, driving the front wheels via a 50kW/167Nm electric motor that can propel the car to a top speed of 130km./h.

The Ray EV became South Korea’s first electric production vehicle in December 2011, with 2500 slated for production and mostly shipped off to government departments and corporate clients as part of an EV trial.

While the Ray EV seems destined to remain a Korea-only proposition, the company has turned its attention to a more serious attempt with the larger Soul, which will take the fight up to the likes of the Nissan Leaf and Toyota RAV4 EV.

While Mr Oh announced the Soul EV yesterday, partner Hyundai was displaying the world’s first series production fuel-cell car in Paris, the ix35 Fuel Cell, that is set to go into limited release in some European cities by the end of this year.

However, Hyundai-Kia’s European powertrain manager Mr Hahn says neither fuel-cell or full-electric vehicles are destined to take over from internal combustion propulsion in cars any time soon, pointing to limited hydrogen infrastructure and the energy density advantages of petrol and diesel over batteries.

Mr Hahn said that while engine downsizing was a strong trend, he dismissed a suggestion that Hyundai-Kia would axe its Tao V8 as used in vehicles such as the Hyundai Genesis and Equus.

“We are still developing that engine,” he said.

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