Battery-powered Kia POPs up in Paris

  • 22-Oct-2010 10:24 EDT

Kia's vision of urban transportation in the future is this diminutive POP concept.

Electric vehicles in concept form have steadily become the norm over the past few years, but the 2010 Paris Motor Show provided unconventional battery-powered transportation courtesy of Kia Motors’ POP model. Designed for the urban environment, the POP is 3 m (10 ft) long and carries just three passengers in an innovative seating arrangement.

The POP is the latest product to break cover from the Korean manufacturer’s European Design Centre in Frankfurt, now led by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer. The chief design officer is claiming that POP goes one step beyond predicting the likely design language of the next generation of Kias. “There are a lot of new things; for example, the side-window graphic is like a signature, unique with its own character.” Schreyer also singled out the dot-pattern grille and taillights, full-length glass roof, and the simplistic, clean look of the wheels.

The electric powertrain found within the POP’s architecture is a 50-kW, 190-N·m (140-lb·ft) motor, which provides a single-charge range of up to 160 km (100 mi). Kia claims that the battery pack is fully rechargeable in 6 h. Lithium polymer gel cells have been preferred to the more traditional lithium-ion type, Kia citing an advantage in size, while offering comparable performance and reduced complexity from a manufacturing point of view. The batteries are supplied to Kia by LG Chem and claimed to be 20% smaller than comparable items produced using lithium-ion.

Gregory Guillaume, Kia Europe’s Chief Designer, said the seats are also designed to be “nonautomotive,” adding that because the automotive world was not inspiring them during the design phase, he and his team focused on other forms of transportation such as gliders and bicycles. “[The seats] are very pure, very simple, almost furniture-like,” he maintained. “The front bench is sculpted, with interesting, flowing lines and, because it's an electric car without a conventional engine, we were able to push the firewall far forward.”

As a result of this configuration, the rear seat is positioned at an offset angle facing out from the rear passenger side across the cabin to the driver-side A-pillar. It’s a two-part affair with a base that flips up when not in use and a back and headrest integrated into the headlining. The result, says the company, is “remarkable” legroom in an automobile that is just 1740 mm (68.5 in) wide with a 2055-mm (80.9-in) wheelbase.

More forward-thinking can be found in the cockpit by way of a piece of plexiglass sitting ahead of the steering wheel. When the vehicle is running, this transparent organic LED (TOLED) displays a speedometer, state of charge, and other information relevant to the operation of the vehicle.

“We thought that there was a lot that could be done with the driver's main points of contact with the car; it was a chance to be visionary,” said Guillaume. “The TOLED has many advantages over the current generation of headup displays, principally that it doesn't require a projector that takes up space and weighs a lot.”

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