Kia Finally Has EVs in North America

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Kia Ray (Production EV)Anyone who’s ever gone car shopping with me knows I’m not a particular fan of Kia; the question I always ask is: “How many ten-year-old Kias do you see on the road?” The answer I’m looking for is “None,” but the answer I almost always get is, “Why do you think I would recognize a ten-year-old Kia if I saw it?” or some variant thereof.

The point I’m trying to reach here is that Kia has finally brought its first production electric vehicle to North America to debut at the 2012 consumer electronics show. What does that have to do with old Kias not being on the road? Well, I’ll tell you — I figure the fewer moving parts that are in electric motors means fewer chances for something to go horribly wrong, and that might mean (relative) longevity for a Kia.

It’s actually two cars we’re going to see — Kia’s Ray EV and its Naimo Zero Emissions concept car. They will both have their North American debut at the show today in Las Vegas.

Let’s Look at the Ray

The electric Ray is the electric version of the standard gasoline-powered Ray, and it features a 16.4 kWh lithium ion polymer battery pack. It’s supposed to have a 10-year lifespan (the magic number!) and charges in 6 hours through a 220V outlet. It can also be put in fast charge mode (which presumably cannot be done by plugging it into your wall), which only takes 25 minutes. The Ray’s range is reported to be up to 86 miles, which is sufficient for most daily drivers (I need about 70, for example, so this actually would work pretty well).

The electric Ray has two driving modes – Eco and Brake (represented by the letters E and B). Eco manipulates torque to give maximum range, while Brake is supposed to maximize braking power when going downhill, on highways, or basically anywhere you might need to slam on the brakes while the weight of the car adds to its momentum.

The interior has some nifty features as well, one of which is a circular map showing the driver how far the Ray can go on its current level of charge – show instead of tell, as it were. There’s also an EV-specific navigation system that will tell the driver where the nearest recharging stations are.

Let’s Glance at the Naimo

The word “Naimo” in Korean apparently means “square,” which is accurately descriptive of the boxy prototype. It’s got five doors and seats four, and is meant mainly for urban areas.

The Naimo has a number of somewhat unusual features; like the Smart For-Us truck prototype, it has cameras rather than rear-facing mirrors (although the Naimo’s are installed in the A-pillars to replace the door mirrors, while the Smart truck’s replaces the center rearview mirror). It also doesn’t have traditional wiper blades; it’s got a high intensity air jet at the bottom of the windshield. Both of these seem to be introducing unnecessary complexity and chances for things to go horribly wrong, but they might also work out – only time will tell.

The electric motor is powered by the same lithium ion polymer batteries as the electric Ray, but the Naimo is supposed to have a 124-mile range and a top speed of 93 mph (break ALL the speed laws!), both of which are helped by special low-drag (giant) wheels. The batteries can be quick-charged to 80% in 25 minutes, and normally charged to full power in just under six hours.

And Then There’s the Interactive Bit

There’s also been a lot of fuss made over the Naimo’s UCD, or User-Centered Driving Concept, which is basically an EV-specific gauge cluster. It includes a large touch screen (which works much like a tablet), and shows speed, distance, and battery life. It also offers the opportunity to download applications for things like parking (wait, what? I really want to say “Just learn to park the thing yourself!” but maybe they’re talking about finding parking garages or something).

The final selling point of the UCD is that it will watch you to make sure there is no falling asleep at the wheel. It uses an infra-red LED and a camera, watches your eye movements, and makes sure your eyes are open. It also checks for pedestrians to keep you from running them over, and aims infra-red lamps and cameras at the road when visibility is poor in order to give you a clearer picture of where you’re going.

Guys, we’re like this close to having cars that drive themselves.

Let us know what you think in the comments, below.

Image | Source: KiaMedia

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