Its Eyes Are Just Coming In: Kia Niro EV Concept Bows at CES
Earlier this year, Tim tested the new Kia Niro, finding it to be a perfectly non-offensive crossover, one that goes about its business with little fuss – which, let’s be honest, is what a good slice of the buying public looks for in a new car.
At the Consumer Electronic Show in Vegas this week, Kia added to the Niro’s lineage with an all-electric version of the compact machine, saying it will offer a range of 238 miles. If that number sounds familiar, it should. It is the exact figure Chevrolet promises for the Bolt.
Created by Kia’s design studio in South Korea, the Niro EV Concept is a fully electric vehicle. Its silhouette largely mimics that of the standard Niro, save for a couple of oddly-shaped lumps on the hood above the strut towers. This may simply be a trick of color and lighting, as its non-EV brother also has styling flourishes in that same area.
Kia mentions that the Niro EV replaces the non-EV’s grille with a “smooth interactive display panel” that appears to spell out a message in the press photos. The company is light on details, but if this panel allows drivers to write a custom message in traffic, it would make for an entertaining commute. This author also thinks the wheels are fantastic. Many will disagree.
The Niro EV Concept is powered by a next-generation electric vehicle powertrain, using new production technologies earmarked for near-future EVs from Kia. Energy is provided by a high-capacity 64 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack, paired with a powerful 150 kW electric motor. The Niro EV Concept suggests a driving range of 238 miles, with zero tailpipe emissions.
As a silent electric car, Kia figures it needs to emit some sort of warning at pedestrians who may be too absorbed in their smartphone to notice an electric Niro bearing down on them. The concept’s new Active Pedestrian Warning System features a combination of front view cameras, object recognition technology and front speakers. If the system detects a pedestrian or cyclist crossing in front of the car, the speakers sound an alert targeted specifically at that person, warning them of the car’s presence.
This differs from other systems currently in operation, which emit a slightly alien warble at all times – whether its surroundings are packed with pedestrians or devoid of humans. Kia says the audible warning works in conjunction with the Niro EV Concept’s new interactive lighting system, offering users and pedestrians visual communication with vehicle as well.
Inside, we find typical show car window dressing complete with an odd two-spoke version of Kia’s corporate steering wheel. While the starship Enterprise gauge displays and gear selector probably won’t make production, the clean look of the rest of its dashboard is appealing and may point to an eventual direction of the brand’s interior design language.
Kia added to the Niro range with a PHEV version late last year, installing a battery pack that provides enough juice for a 60-horsepower electric motor to give the vehicle a gas-free driving range of 26 miles. The standard Niro deploys a 1.6-liter four-cylinder gas engine mated to an electric motor for a total system horsepower of 139, with a combined torque figure of 195 lb-ft.
The company says it will continue to expand its range of environmentally friendly cars in the coming years, planning to offer a total of 16 electrified vehicles by 2025, including a fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) in 2020.
It is important to note the distinction of “electrified” vs “electric.” While the pure EV concept shown here is electric, the existing Niro hybrid and Niro PHEV are electrified, as they incorporate a measure of electrons in their propulsion systems. Keep that in mind when a company touts their future product plans, as many will during both CES and NAIAS this month.
[Images: Kia Motors]
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