KIA unveiled the HabaNiro, an all wheel drive electric SUV with more than 300 miles of range, at the New York auto show on April 17. What is it? It’s an everything vehicle for everyone, according to KIA.
“We wanted this concept to be comfortable navigating city streets, carving turns on a coastal road, and off-roading with confidence to remote wilderness adventures,” says Tom Kearns, vice president of design for KIA Design Center America. “We imagined a car for everyone and nearly everything. Then, when we saw the finished product,we were blown away by the imagination of the HabaNiro’s creators and its laboratory of technology and we want it in our driveways — today.”
The company says its HabaNiro electric compact crossover utility vehicle is an all-electric Everything Car — a commuter, crossover, sport utility, state-of-the-art technology workroom and adventure vehicle. It reportedly will have a range of 300 miles and will come with dual motors for true off road capability. The concept is shod with aggressive all terrain tires that could definitely be at home on the Rubicon Trail.
“Satin aluminum skid plates, milled billet aluminum tow hooks, anodized Lava Red aluminum accents, and the embossed HabaNiro name complement the upscale look while suggesting the vehicle’s adventure-ready attitude,” KIA says. “Perhaps most importantly, the heartbeat pulse of the daytime running lights announce the HabaNiro’s animated energy — ‘I’m alive’.”
Apart from the bold and colorful exterior accents — the bright red slash across the rear flanks and over the top is meant to evoke a habanero chili pepper — the concept features four butterfly doors. Will they make it into production? That’s doubtful. Designers love to include them in their concept vehicles, but they are hardly practical. Nevertheless, the interior of the HabaNiro is anything but mundane.
A full-width heads-up display sweeps across the dashboard, replacing the now commonplace touchscreen. The driver and passenger can operated the many HUD functions with hand gestures. Where the rear view mirror used to be, another screen provides a 180º view behind the car. The screen is activated instantaneously whenever the driver looks toward that area of the windshield. A full perimeter climate control system keeps each passenger properly heated and cooled at all times.
When full Level 5 autonomous mode is selected, the steering wheel folds away and the HUD becomes a full width video screen displaying a variety of entertainment options. KIA’s Real Time Emotion Adaptive Driving (R.E.A.D.) System, which debuted at CES 2019 “can optimize and personalize a vehicle cabin space by analyzing a driver’s emotional state in real time through artificial intelligence based bio-signal recognition technology.”
“The technology monitors the driver’s emotional state and tailors the interior environment according to its assessment — potentially altering conditions relating to the human senses within the cabin and in turn creating a more pleasurable and safer driving experience. AI and automation shouldn’t take the joy out of driving, as some auto lovers fear, but should enhance it — anticipating needs so we can concentrate on the driving experience,” KIA says.
Pricing, production dates? All of that remains for the future to reveal. Concept cars are all about gauging customer interest as a manufacturer works to develop a business case for prospective new models, but the company points out that the KIA Stinger and Telluride were once concepts that progressed to the production phase and are available in showrooms today.
KIA Factory In Europe?
KIA and corporate cousin Hyundai have been criticized for offering attractive electric vehicles but underestimating the demand, resulting in long delays for people who want to buy one. That critique is certainly valid. In the US, the companies’ most advanced electric cars are in short supply and available only in states that follow the California emissions rules. Things might be changing, though.
The problem is even more acute in Europe, where customers are pounding on the doors of KIA and Hyundai dealers demanding to buy one of their electric cars but being told they may have to wait a year or more to get one. According to Electrive, KIA is considering building a factory in Europe to help meet the demand.
Emilio Herrera, COO of KIA Europe, said recently, “Today our problem is not whether we can sell these cars, but how many will I get (from Korea). We know our suppliers LG Chemical and SK Innovation are looking to possible battery production in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.” Manufacturing electric cars in Europe would minimize the risk of supply constraints, particularly if the company’s main battery suppliers are nearby.
Even if KIA decides to go ahead with European production, it will be years before a new factory comes online. Until then, all those lovely electric KIA Niros and Kia Souls — and maybe HabaNiros — will continue to have more demand than the company can meet.
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