Chicago Auto Show: Kia unveils all-electric Soul EV

Kia went electric at Thursday’s 2014 Chicago Auto Show, by introducing the brand’s first all-electric vehicle, the Soul EV.

Based on the boxy Soul hatchback crossover that has long been one of Kia’s most popular vehicles, the EV version ditches the gas engine for an electric motor with 80 to 100 miles of range.

“The Soul EV retains the fun and funky style as well as the packaging efficiency and utility that have made the gasoline-powered Soul such a huge hit with consumers,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning at Kia. “And to that winning combination it adds usable real-world range and multiple charging options, making it the perfect EV for everyone.”


PHOTOS: 2015 Kia Soul EV

In many ways the Soul was the perfect fit for an electric drivetrain. Its shape and size allowed Kia to squeeze the lithium-ion batteries below the Soul’s floor and only slightly cut down rear legroom and cargo area. The batteries also keep the car’s center of gravity low, and make the Soul EV stiffer than its gas-powered sibling.

Those air-cooled, 27 kWh batteries power an electric motor that makes 109 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque. Top speed will be 90 mph. Recharging times for a depleted battery vary with a 120-volt outlet, but clock in at under five hours with a 240-volt outlet.

Additional energy on the front-wheel-drive Soul EV will be captured by the regenerative brakes, which come with four modes of recharging. Drivers will also have the option of setting the climate control to a “driver-only” setting when traveling solo, preventing the Soul from blowing hot or cold air on empty passenger seats and wasting energy.

The Soul EV will come in base and plus models. Standard gear on all versions includes an eight-inch touchscreen navigation system, backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a power driver’s seat.

This latest Kia will be available in mid to late-summer in states with the most robust EV infrastructure, the automaker said. This means California and Oregon on the West Coast, and New York, New Jersey, and Maryland on the East Coast. Additional states will be added in the near future.

Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date, Kia said.