Its Eyes Are Just Coming In: Kia Niro EV Concept Bows at CES

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
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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  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jan 09, 2018

    Another tortured sheetmetal special, now with protruding tongues front and rear. Interior reminiscent of a bottom of the line fridge. Frankly embarrassing.

  • Iamwho2k Iamwho2k on Jan 09, 2018

    Curbs all over Seoul are just itching to put their mark on those wheels. (And it will be curbs since potholes don't exist in SK's capital.)

  • Danddd Chicago at night is crazy traveling in and out from the 'burbs. Taking the Ike back home around midnight and you'll see racers swerving by at 100mph plus. Dangerous enough we rarely go down there anymore. I plan my city trips between 9:30AM and back out by 1PM to miss the worst traffic.
  • SCE to AUX Good summary, Matt.I like EVs, but not bans, subsidies, or carbon credits. Let them find their own level.PM Sunak has done a good thing, but I'm surprised at how sensibly early he made the call. Hopefully they'll ban the ban altogether.
  • SCE to AUX "Having spoken to plenty of suppliers over the years, many have told me they tried to adapt to EV production only to be confronted with inconsistent orders."Lofty sales predictions followed by reality.I once worked (very briefly) for a key supplier to Segway, back when "Ginger" was going to change the world. Many suppliers like us tooled up to support sales in the millions, only to sell thousands - and then went bankrupt.
  • SCE to AUX "all-electric vehicles, resulting in a scenario where automakers need fewer traditional suppliers"Is that really true? Fewer traditional suppliers, but they'll be replaced with other suppliers. You won't have the myriad of parts for an internal combustion engine and its accessories (exhaust, sensors), but you still have gear reducers (sometimes two or three), electric motors with lots of internal components, motor mounts, cooling systems, and switchgear.Battery packs aren't so simple, either, and the fire recalls show that quality control is paramount.The rest of the vehicle is pretty much the same - suspension, brakes, body, etc.
  • Theflyersfan As crazy as the NE/Mid-Atlantic I-95 corridor drivers can be, for the most part they pay attention and there aren't too many stupid games. I think at times it's just too crowded for that stuff. I've lived all over the US and the worst drivers are in parts of the Midwest. As I've mentioned before, Ohio drivers have ZERO lane discipline when it comes to cruising, merging, and exiting. And I've just seen it in this area (Louisville) where many drivers have literally no idea how to merge. I've never seen an area where drivers have no problems merging onto an interstate at 30 mph right in front of you. There are some gruesome wrecks at these merge points because it looks like drivers are just too timid to merge and speed up correctly. And the weaving and merging at cloverleaf exits (which in this day and age need to all go away) borders on comical in that no one has a bloody clue of let car merge in, you merge right to exit, and then someone repeats behind you. That way traffic moves. Not a chance here.And for all of the ragging LA drivers get, I found them just fine. It's actually kind of funny watching them rearrange themselves like after a NASCAR caution flag once traffic eases up and they line up, speed up to 80 mph for a few miles, only to come to a dead halt again. I think they are just so used to the mess of freeways and drivers that it's kind of a "we'll get there when we get there..." kind of attitude.