Concept car previews 238-mile capable production EV

Launched for the 2017 model year, the Kia Niro is a subcompact crossover positioned below the popular Sportage. Previewed by a concept vehicle introduced in 2013, the Niro is built on the same platform as the Hyundai Ioniq, and it’s available with a 1.6-liter gasoline engine and electric motor combo, in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. A gasoline-only version isn’t on a drawing table yet, but a fully electric model is definitely underway. Already spotted testing on public roads in 2017, the Niro EV broke cover at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in concept form.

Heavily based on the production model, the electric concept is more than just a Niro with an electric motor and a battery. Kia also meddled with the exterior design and created a new lighting system for the show car. Inside the cabin, it features an updated "human-machine interface" and an array of new safety features. Surprisingly enough, Kia redesigned the Niro’s interior for the all-electric model. Alongside the Niro EV, Kia also unveiled plans to launch 16 new electrified vehicles by 2025. The range includes five hybrids, five plug-in hybrids, five all-electric models, and a hydrogen-powered vehicle. The latter is planned to arrive in 2020 and could be based on the Hyundai Nexo, also unveiled at the 2018 CES.

The production version of the Niro EV is likely to debut by the end of 2018.

Continue reading to learn more about the Kia Niro EV concept.

Exterior

  • Redesigned headlamps and taillights
  • New daytine running lights
  • New rear bumper with LED lights
  • Sporty side skirts
  • Black window trim
  • New wheel design
  • "Motion graphic" lighting system
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    Unlike the production model, the concept comes with a new headlamp layout and a revised bumper

At quick glance, it’s pretty obvious that the show car is a modified Niro. All the familiar features are there, including the headlamps and taillights, the "Tigernose" grille, and traditional crossover shape. But unlike the production model, the concept comes with a new headlamp layout that includes a triangular cover for each unit, as well as a new LED configuration with small vertical strips. The grille has been modified too. The "tigernose" design is still there, but the traditional mesh has been replaced by a body-colored element that also includes a display saying "Hello CES." This is part of the "motion graphic" lighting system that’s supposed to warn pedestrians of a possible collission.

Below the grille is a revised bumper with a wider intake. The standard daytime running lights are gone, replaced by LED units positioned higher and further apart in the bumper. They also have a new, three-piece configuration shaped like the letter Y.

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Around back, Kia replaced the Niro’s usual taillights with slimmer units

Things become a lot more interesting around back, where Kia replaced the Niro’s usual taillights with slimmer units. On top of being thinner, which gives the crossover a more aggressive stance, they also feature a new LED pattern with thin stripes around the lens and vertical bars, similar to those seen up front. The red lights in the bumper also mimic the "Y" shape of the daytime running lights. The license place recess is much wider now and looks like a sporty diffuser. Inside, there’s "Niro EV" lettering in white LED lights.

The SUV’s profile appears to be the same, but I can see a new side skirt design, new wheels with a three-spoke, two-tone design, and black window trim. The wheelarch cladding is a bit thicker and finished in high-gloss black, while the ride height appears to be a bit bigger than the standard Niro.

Interior

  • Brand-new interior
  • Three-tier dashboard
  • No lower center stack
  • Rotary gear knob
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • Flat-bottom steering wheel
  • Leather upholstery
  • Sporty seats
  • Dual-zone sound system
  • Vocal recognition
  • Gesture controls
  • Active Pedestrian Warning System
2018 Kia Niro EV Concept Interior
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While the exterior is heavily based on the production model, the interior was redesigned from a clean sheet

While the exterior is heavily based on the production model, the interior was redesigned from a clean sheet. The dashboard design is very clean and has a three-tier layout. The upper section is grey and covered in what appear to be leather. A recess on the driver’s side holds the digital instrument cluster that replaces simulated clocks with colored bars and large figures. The second tier includes a slim vent on the passenger side and the infotainment screen in the center. The display is flanked by "Niro EV" lettering in LED on the right and three touch controls on the left. Finally, the third layer below is finished in white and includes the ignition button, which is integrated in a silver insert just below the infotainment display.

The lower section of the center stack was removed completely. This design feature was quite common a few decades ago and I must say it doesn’t make much sense space-wise, but I’m fine with it being gone since it’s usually a big clutter of buttons and knobs.

2018 Kia Niro EV Concept Interior
- image 756534
The dashboard design is very clean and has a three-tier layout

The center console is also pretty clean to look at as it only features a rotary gear knob and a few touch commands. The two-tone upholstery and the copper inserts on the dashboard and door panels give the cabin an elegant, premium look. The classic three-spoke steering wheel was dropped in favor of a leather-wrapped, two-spoke unit with a flat bottom, a piano black center section, and controls on each side.

The seats feature a sporty design with heavy bolstering and integrated headrests. Again, it doesn’t make much sense in an electric vehicle that’s not overly powerful, but it’s not usual for a concept car to get exagerrated features.

2018 Kia Niro EV Concept Interior
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New tech includes facial and vocal recognition, touch and gesture controls (also on the steering wheel), and a dual-zone audio system

New tech includes facial and vocal recognition, touch and gesture controls (also on the steering wheel), and a dual-zone audio system. The latter adds a pair of speakers in the headrests and also includes an active noise cancellation system which allows front- and rear-seat passengers to listen to two different things simultaneously without headphones. If put into production, this system will come in handy if you want to listen to the news, while the passengers in the back want to crank out the latest radio hits.

The Niro EV concept also has a new Active Pedestrian Warning System (APWS) that 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, while the interactive lighting system provides pedestrians with a "highly-intuitive visual communication with vehicle."

Drivetrain

  • All-new electric drivetrain
  • 64-kWh battery pack
  • 201 horsepower
  • 238-mile range
2018 Kia Niro EV Concept Exterior
- image 756538
New wheel design
Kia actually developed its own drivetrain and it's significantly more powerful than the Ioniq

With the Niro built on the same platform as the Hyundai Ioniq, I was almost 100 percent certain that the Niro EV would get the same drivetrain as the Ioniq Electric. Maybe a bit more powerful in concept form. But I was wrong. Kia actually developed its own drivetrain, and even though full specs aren’t yet available, it’s significantly more powerful than the Ioniq. Powered by a 64-kWh battery pack, the electric motor cranks out 150 kW, which converts to 201 horsepower. For reference, the Ioniq Electric uses a 28-kWh battery and delivers 118 horsepower.

A bigger battery also means better range. While the Ioniq Electric returns a solid 155 miles on a single charge, the Niro EV is good for a more impressive 238 miles. That’s on par with the Chevrolet Bolt EV a slightly superior to the entry-level Tesla Model 3, which is supposed to return about 220 miles.

While we shouldn’t forget that this crossover is just a concept for now — and we know that production models are usually less spectacular — if the Niro EV that will arrive in dealerships will be able to provide 238 miles, Kia will have one of the best electric cars on the market in terms of mileage and output.

Conclusion

2018 Kia Niro EV Concept Exterior
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New rear bumper with LED lights

The Niro EV may be just a concept car for now, but it’s pretty clear that it will become a production model soon. The vehicle was already spotted tested on public roads and it will most likely arrive by the end of 2018. With the Niro already available in hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants, the full electric version will round out the nameplate and give Kia a solid competitor for all markets.

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    • * Some features won’t go into production

References

Kia Niro

2019 Kia Niro EV Spyshots Exterior
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Could have a different grille

Read our full speculative review on the 2019 Kia Niro EV.

2017 Kia Niro High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2017 Kia Niro.

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Read more CES news.

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Read more Kia news.

Press release

Kia Motors today presents its future mobility vision at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Under its new ‘Boundless for all’ vision, Kia will bring a future in which opportunities for mobility and transportation are limitless. To broaden horizons with its mobility services, Kia is also demonstrating a range of new technologies as part of its new ‘ACE’ strategy to make its cars more Autonomous, Connected and Eco/Electric.

“‘Boundless for all’ is Kia’s future vision – where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the infinite value that future mobility will bring. This is Kia’s manifesto for its role as a mass mobility provider in the future. Consumers are bound today by the idea that a car is ‘just a vehicle’, but Kia is committed to providing a broader solution to mobility. ‘Boundless for all’ represents a future in which a vehicle can be so much more than the sum of its parts,” said Dr. Woong-chul Yang, Vice Chairman and Head of Kia R&D Center.

Kia’s ‘ACE’ strategy is based around three core elements, presenting Kia’s vision for future personal transportation:

Autonomous – Kia plans to commercialize Level 4 autonomous driving technology, with ‘Smart City’ autonomous vehicle testing due to commence in 2021
Connected – By 2025, Kia will adopt connected car technologies across every vehicle segment, and aim to make every single model a connected car by 2030
Eco/Electric – Kia will introduce 16 new advanced powertrain vehicles by 2025, including a range of new hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, as well as an all-new fuel-cell electric vehicle in 2020

Alongside these technologies, Kia announced its plans to roll-out its ‘WiBLE’ car-sharing service – launched in Korea in 2017 – to new regions from 2018, starting with Europe.

Beyond Autonomous Driving: Kia’s exhibition theme for ‘connected’ vehicles
At CES 2018, Kia is presenting a range of interactive exhibits which combine existing and future technologies. These demonstrate how vehicles could be optimized for enhanced connectivity as they become more autonomous.

Kia’s exhibits at CES 2018 hint at a future ‘Beyond Autonomous Driving’. Visitors can interact with Kia’s developing autonomous drive technologies through a VR simulator, while also experiencing a V2X diorama demonstrating how cars could connect with other vehicles and the urban environment.

The company plans to operate a large-scale test fleet for autonomous technology on public roads from 2019, paving the way for commercial production of the technology. Kia aims to commercialize Level 4 autonomous vehicles in smart cities from 2021 with a new Smart City pilot project.

“Kia’s connected cars will be both boundless and connected and offer a new kind of mobility experience. Virtual reality, self-driving cars, and ‘vehicle-to-everything’ connectivity were all once considered technologies of the distant future. As they rapidly become a reality, Kia is exploring how to deploy these new technologies for its customers. Our strategy and vision for future mobility is demonstrated by a range of interactive displays, showing what our customers can look forward to,” said Vice Chairman Yang.

16 new electrified vehicles by 2025
Kia will continue to expand its range of environmentally-friendly cars in the coming years, and plans to offer a total of 16 electrified vehicles by 2025, including a fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) in 2020.

“By 2025, we will offer a total of 16 advanced powertrain vehicles, with five new hybrids and plug-in hybrids, five new battery EVs, and an all-new mass market FCEV. Due to launch in 2020, this FCEV will spearhead Kia’s efforts to realize a zero-emission future for mobility,” said Vice Chairman Yang.

As part of this strategy, Kia is exhibiting the Niro EV Concept at CES 2018. Combining the stylish design of a modern compact SUV with the high efficiency of an advanced battery-electric powertrain, the Kia Niro EV Concept represents the next step in the brand’s ongoing journey to electrification.

Created by Kia’s design studio in Korea, the Niro EV Concept is a fully-electric compact SUV. Its aerodynamically-efficient body allows air to slip over, around and beneath the vehicle with ease. The traditional grille – no longer required for engine cooling – is replaced by a smooth interactive display panel, combined with ultra-slim lamp technology in the overall front. In profile, the concept draws inspiration from the current Kia Niro, with a modish compact crossover silhouette, elevated body and wide C-pillar. The Niro EV Concept’s seamless rear aspect has clean and sharp trailing edges allowing air to flow more easily off the back of the car.

With a silent electric powertrain, and the anticipation that such a car would be driven most frequently on urban and suburban roads, the Niro EV Concept boasts new technologies to enhance safety for pedestrians.

The concept’s new Active Pedestrian Warning System (APWS) 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. APWS is matched by the Niro EV Concept’s new interactive lighting system, which offers users and pedestrians a highly-intuitive visual communication with vehicle.

Inside, the cabin has been designed with a pure, minimalist and digital appearance, creating greater user interaction with new technologies and features. With a wrap-around design to cocoon the driver and passengers, the dashboard’s horizontal layout has broad and smooth surfaces. The effect is an innate sense of space and calm in the cabin, enhanced by the soft shades of silver, grey and bronze covering every surface.

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 (383 kilometers), with zero tailpipe emissions.

Interactive exhibits preview new in-car technology
At CES 2018, Kia is exhibiting its latest HMI technologies, autonomous drive features and the world’s first in-car 5G connection. These exhibits hint at innovations that could be adapted for use in the brand’s future vehicles. Kia is demonstrating these innovations through a set of interactive cockpit-style experiences, presenting the brand’s ‘Beyond Autonomous Driving’ vision with technologies that idle passengers can draw upon in a future of vehicle autonomy.

The first cockpit gives visitors the chance to experience the Niro EV Concept’s pioneering new HMI, with enhanced interaction between visitors and the vehicle. The infotainment and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems are controlled by touch and gesture, with the steering wheel acting as a remote. The driver can ‘swipe’ along a perforated leather area on the base of the two-spoke wheel, with different gestures serving to switch between favorite music tracks, turn up the volume, and adjust cabin ventilation settings. A digital dashboard display provides additional information to the driver, such as vehicle settings, powertrain status, and trip information.

Creating a more digital interaction between car and driver than in a traditional vehicle, the HMI allows drivers to ‘log-in’ to the vehicle using face and voice recognition. The facial and voice recognition technology, developed in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), welcomes drivers and adjusts vehicle settings based on preset individual preferences. Leveraging ‘Amazon Rekognition’ and ‘Amazon Polly’ – highly accurate facial analysis and voice services provided by AWS – the new system disables many of the car’s functions if the driver does not pass the identification process.

The HMI cockpit at CES 2018 lets users experiment with these exciting new in-car technologies.

A second cockpit demonstrates the world’s first in-vehicle 5G connection – with a real-time connection established between Las Vegas and Seoul, Korea. The 5G connection enables users to stream contents reliably into the car, linked to the exhibit’s infotainment system.

The second cockpit also presents the Niro EV Concept’s Separate Sound Control System, allowing users in the front and rear rows to experience Kia’s sound separation technology. The technology allows front and rear passengers to listen to their own music at the same time without intruding on others in the car. The system features eight speakers installed in the headrests, simultaneously pumping out sounds for each seat row, and using noise-cancellation technology to ‘mute’ sound from the other row of seats. By creating two sound zones in the car, occupants in different rows can enjoy listening to separate music or podcasts. Developed in-house, Kia believes this technology could be adapted to enhance occupant comfort in future production cars.

Finally, visitors can experience Kia’s own autonomous drive support technologies with a series of virtual reality exhibits. The VR simulations demonstrate Kia’s autonomous drive support technologies in a range of environments, via VR headsets.

WiBLE car-sharing service to launch in Europe in 2018
Enabling urban and suburban mobility, Kia has today announced plans to roll-out its ‘WiBLE’ car-sharing service to new regions. Launched in Korea in 2017, WiBLE – a portmanteau of ‘Widely Accessible’ – will be introduced to certain European markets and cities from late 2018. Kia plans to expand the service into other markets around the world in the coming years.

WiBLE will be serviced in the designated areas in city centers, providing vehicles to customers who need to drive but may not own a car of their own or who want more convenient drive in city centers.

In Korea, WiBLE users have access to a variety of different Kia cars to complete their journeys, including the Soul EV, Niro hybrid crossover and larger vehicles. Vehicles are equipped with a range of Kia’s active safety technologies to help customers complete journeys safely in a car with which they may not be familiar. This format is expected to be carried over into new WiBLE markets.

WiBLE is accessed via an accompanying smartphone app. Users then pay for individual journeys in a WiBLE vehicle, charged according to the amount of time they use the car. WiBLE in Europe enables users to complete one-way journeys, rather than requiring them to return the car to the same point, for maximum convenience and value for money.

Kia will announce the first European locations for the launch of WiBLE later in 2018.

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