Call it electric Soul: Kia took the wraps off its first electric car to be sold in the U.S. this morning, officially launching the 2015 Kia Soul EV at the Chicago Auto Show.

The Soul EV was one of three Kia vehicles featured at the Chicago show. It was shown alongside the Kia Niro Concept, a hybrid subcompact urban utility vehicle, first shown last fall at the Frankfurt Motor Show, as well as an updated 2014 Kia Optima Hybrid sedan.

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The Kia Soul EV uses an air-cooled 27-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the car’s floor. The lithium-ion cells use a nickel-cobalt-manganese cathode chemistry, for higher energy capacity, and a graphite anode for light weight.

The front wheels are driven by an 81-kilowatt (109-horsepower) liquid-cooled electric motor that produces 210 lb-ft of torque. The company quotes a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of under 12 seconds, and a top speed limited to 90 mph.

The regenerative braking, Kia says, is its third generation of such a system and can recapture up to 12 percent of the car’s kinetic energy during coasting and braking. Drivers can select from four modes: “Brake” provides higher regeneration than “Drive,” and each setting also works with the Eco-Mode switched on, further boosting the regenerative effect.

Kia fits both a Level 2 J-1772 standard charging port and a CHAdeMO quick-charging port behind a sliding door in the car’s nose. The Soul EV joins the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV to become the third car sold in the U.S. that can take advantage of the DC quick-charging standard.

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While Kia didn’t specify it, the Soul EV appears to have a 3.3-kilowatt onboard charger; the company quotes charging times for a fully depleted pack of five hours using Level 2 charging and up to 24 hours on 120-Volt household current. When using CHAdeMO quick charging at 50 kW, the pack can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in as little as 33 minutes, Kia says.

Kia said it expects real-world range of 80 to 100 miles, but did not make any prediction’s on the electric range or energy efficiency rating it would receive from the EPA.

Unique two-tone treatment

Exterior changes for the Soul EV include a larger grille to accommodate the charging ports, color accents in front and rear fascias, projector-beam headlights, and LEDs for both the front positioning lamps and the taillights. The fender badges now say “Eco Electric,” and the electric Soul uses unique 16-inch alloy wheels with ultra-low-rolling-resistance tires.

Most noticeable are the two-tone color treatments, which are unique to the Soul EV. Three combinations will be offered: Pearl White body with Electronic Blue roof, Caribbean Blue with Clear White, and Bright Silver with Clear White.

Kia Soul EV badge

Kia Soul EV badge

Inside, the Soul loses a small amount of rear leg room compared to the gasoline version (from 39.1 to 36 inches), though Kia says the Soul EV still offers more rear legroom than other “key” electric cars on the market. Its cargo volume is reduced from 24.2 to 19.1 cubic feet to accommodate the battery cooling fan and portable 120-Volt charging cable under the load deck.

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The electric Soul comes standard with a so-called Virtual Engine Sound System that generates an artificial noise to alert pedestrians at speeds of 12 mph and below, and whenever the car is in reverse.

The 2015 Kia Soul EV will go on sale between July and September in selected regions, although Kia said it hoped to offer the vehicle in additional markets “in the near future” as demand and charging infrastructure permitted.

Among them are California and Oregon, along with a handful of Eastern states where electric cars are already selling relatively well: New York, New Jersey, and Maryland among them.

Kia noted that Soul EV drivers will be able to recharge their cars at participating Kia dealers at no charge—following Nissan’s lead in that respect. And it has partnered with three different makers of home charging stations to let buyers choose the unit best suited to their needs. They are AeroVironment, Bosch, and Leviton.

Pricing for the 2015 Kia Soul EV will be announced closer to the its on-sale date.


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