As a latecomer to the all-electric vehicle segment in the U.S., the 2015 Kia Soul EV’s auto show introduction follows the market launch of the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric, Toyota RAV4 EV, and other full-electric vehicles.
“We are the eighth or ninth brand coming into the EV space, but we’ve had the advantage of seeing what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for other automakers,” Steve Kosowski, Manager of Long Range Strategy for Kia Motors America Inc., said in an Automotive Engineering interview following the Soul EV’s world debut at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show. “Having that knowledge has helped us in many areas, including the product and the go-to-market strategy.”
When the gasoline-fueled Soul hatchback reached U.S. dealerships in 2010, Kia product planners were in the early stages of deciding what model would be the automaker’s first all-electric vehicle for the U.S. market.
“When this EV project originated about four years ago, it was pretty easy to land on the Soul as the car to use for a lot of reasons,” said Kosowski. The Soul’s unique styling was an appealing draw as was the vehicle’s sill height and hip point. That meant for the packaging of EV-related systems, the Soul had inherent advantages over the subcompact Rio or the compact Forte.
Engineers packaged a lithium-ion polymer prismatic battery pack beneath Soul’s floor, including the space previously occupied by the 14.2-gal (54-L) fuel tank. That marginally reduced the Soul’s 39.1 in (993 mm) rear seat leg room to 36 in (914 mm) on the EV. The gasoline-fueled Soul has 24.2 ft3 (685 L) of cargo space with rear seat upright and that stow space compressed to 19.1 ft3 (541 L) with the packaging of a battery cooling fan and 120-V charger under the EV’s cargo floor.
The Kia Soul EV’s 96-cell lithium-ion polymer battery pack uses a nickel-cobalt-manganese cathode and a graphite-based anode. “For thermal stability and safety reasons, the cells sit in a gel electrolyte. So in the event of a battery pack intrusion, the pack won’t easily leak,” Kosowski said.
Five steel cross-members support the five-module battery pack. This additional cross-bracing contributes to the 3282 lb (1489 kg) curb weight Soul EV having torsional rigidity that is 5.9% greater than the non-EV.
Soul EV’s 27 kW·h battery pack has a 200 W·h/kg energy density, according to Kia officials.
The air-cooled, 200 W·h/kg battery is expected to provide the Soul EV with a driving range of 80-100 mi (129-161 km) on a full charge. According to Orth Hedrick, Vice President of Product Planning for Kia Motors America, “We’re seeing 100-plus miles in some of our testing and evaluations.”
Two charging ports, located behind a sliding door on the front grille, provide access for SAE J1772 compliant Level 1 and Level 2 ac charging as well as the optional CHAdeMo dc fast-charging. With a fully depleted battery, a 120-V recharge using the 6.6-kW onboard charger will take approximately 24 h. Recharging a fully depleted battery via a 240-V outlet and the 6.6-kW onboard charger will take approximately 4.5 to 5 h. Said Kosowski,” The battery pack can achieve an 80% recharge in 33 min using the 50-kW fast-charging port.”
Kia has partnered with Bosch, Leviton, and AeroVironment to supply chargers.
As a follow-up to a second-generation regenerative braking system used on the Optima Hybrid sedan, Kia’s third-generation regenerative braking system is capable of capturing up to 12% of the Soul EV’s kinetic energy during coasting and braking. “The third-generation regenerative braking system reduces weight, reduces the parts count, and increases energy recuperation compared to the second-generation system,” Kosowski said.
An 81.4-kW liquid-cooled AC synchronous permanent magnet motor uses the electrical energy stored in the battery pack for moving the Soul EV to an electronically limited top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h). The electric motor, which produces 210 lb·ft (285 N·m) of torque, delivers power to the front wheels through a single-speed constant ratio gear reduction unit.
Soul EV’s unique heating/cooling system provides four methods of minimizing energy consumption. A driver-only ventilation mode means climate-controlled airflow does not reach the front passenger side and the rear passenger compartment. With scheduled ventilation, heating or cooling of the passenger cabin occurs while the vehicle is plugged into a charger.
Air induction control regulates the inner and outer airflow to minimize HVAC usage, and the HVAC system’s available heat pump helps warm cabin air. “This heat pump provides approximately 27% greater HVAC efficiency than a conventional EV heater,” said Kosowski.
Organic bio-based materials are used for 23 different interior parts, accounting for 10.9 lb (4.9 kg) of cabin content. “The thrust was to reduce CO2 during the driving experience as well as in the product itself,” said Kosowski. Bio-based content locations include the instrument panel surface, headliner, carpeting, cargo cover, seating cloth, door trim, A-pillar trim, and center console.
The Soul EV also showcases Kia’s first use of organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology via a 3.5-in screen located within the instrument cluster. This viewing area provides the driver with EV-specific information, including alerts relating to the battery’s state of charge.
“We’re also building on the embedded connectivity with our UVO EV Services, which is a special version of our telematics and infotainment system. As one example, with the UVO EV app, a driver can use a smartphone to preset a charging time, get state of charge messages, as well as do other tasks remotely and in real time,” Kosowski said.
Road evaluations, including wintertime drives in International Falls, MN, are among the wrap-up engineering activities. “The remaining work on the vehicle includes final fine-tuning of the throttle mapping and some drivability tuning,” said Kosowski, whose responsibilities include coordinating the Soul EV’s rollout to U.S. markets.
Both the Soul and Soul EV will be assembled on the same line at the Gwangju plant in South Korea. The first Soul EVs will be in dealerships sometime during the third quarter of 2014 in California and Oregon, followed by Maryland, New York, and New Jersey in 2015. Although Kia officials are not indicating a timeline, the Soul EV will be sold in other global markets.
A MSRP will be announced closer to the 2015 Soul EV’s launch date.