The 2015 Soul EV, unveiled at the media kick-off for the 2014
Chicago Auto Show, is Kia's first all-electric, zero-emissions car
in the United States and its second "green" car for the U.S. market.
It joins a hybrid version of its best-selling Optima sedan that has
been available here since 2011.
The Soul EV is powered by an air-cooled lithium-ion polymer battery
and an 81.4 kW, 109-horsepower, liquid-cooled electric motor, which
produces a 210 lb.-ft. of torque, according to Kia.
The car can go from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 96 km per hour) in less than
12 seconds, has a top speed of 90 mph (144 km per hour) and can
drive 80 to 100 miles on a full charge, the company said. The
vehicle can be recharged by plugging into any standard 120 volt
outlet or a conventional 240v EV charger.
The Soul EV will initially be sold in a handful of states, including
California and Oregon, beginning this August, and in New York, New
Jersey and Maryland early next year, Kia said. Pricing has not yet
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Orth Hedrick, the vice
president for product planning at Kia Motors America Inc, said the
company was waiting to set preliminary sales goals for the new
"We don't have firm targets yet," Hedrick said.
"This is a start-up operation that we have to get dealers to opt
into. We don't just give it to them. We have to certify them. They
have to go through training. So we're a little bit early yet to have
a definitive number."
U.S. demand for electric vehicles has confounded some of the
old-line carmakers, including General Motors Co <GM.N> and Nissan
Motor Co <7201.T>, that were early movers in the marketplace.
Both companies have had to slash prices and offer other aggressive
incentives on their EVs — and still barely outsold the Tesla Model
S, a battery-powered luxury sedan offered by newcomer Tesla Motors
Inc <TSLA.O> that is double the price of Nissan's Leaf and Chevrolet
In 2013, Tesla sold just over 19,000 of its pricey S models,
according to full-year sales figures from Autodata, compared with
more than 22,000 for Leaf and more than 23,000 for Volt.
Worldwide production of electric vehicles is forecast to increase 67
percent to 403,000 units this year, according to IHS Automotive and
[to top of second column]
The increase in EV production is expected to come even as global
vehicle production rises less than 4 percent in 2014.
Several European carmakers, including BMW, Volkswagen,
Mercedes-Benz and Audi, are introducing electric propulsion vehicles
in 2014 to comply with strict new emission rules.
Despite an aggressive campaign by the carmakers to push EVs, a push
that has included free charging stations at some dealerships and a
raft of price cuts and cheap lease deals, the vehicles have not been
hot sellers so far.
Obstacles to EV sales include overcoming buyer concerns about the
vehicles' short driving range, long charging times and lack of
Retail sales staff also are reluctant to spend the extra time it
takes to educate buyers about the benefits of electric cars and how
they differ from conventional models.
There is also serious disagreement whether the long-term future of
emission-free cars will belong to electric vehicles or to hydrogen
fuel cell vehicles, which have longer range than the current
generation but involve a technology and fuel that is new — and unavailable — to most U.S. consumers.
Hedrick said Kia believes that, for now at least, EVs represent the
way forward. "It's a lot more accessible — mainly because of the
infrastructure," he said. "(So) for the foreseeable future, electric
is the way to go."
In January, Kia said it expects its global retail sales to rise 6
percent to 2.9 million vehicles in 2014, driven by demand in China
and the United States, where the company expects to sell 630,000 and
585,000 vehicles, respectively.
The Chicago Auto Show opens to the public on Saturday, February 8
and runs through Monday, February 17.
(Reporting by James B. Kelleher in
Chicago; editing by Dan Grebler and Stephen Powell)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.