First Drive: 2015 Kia Soul EV Prototype

Filed under: Hatchback, Kia, First Drives, Electric, South Korea

2015 Kia Soul EV Prototype

Spend a few days chatting with the good people of Seoul about their neighbors to the north, and you’ll find a pattern emerges. When they first start talking, South Korea’s citizenry speaks openly and ardently about seeking reunification with their North Korean brothers and sisters. Yet once you get beyond casual conversation, you’ll find that those hopes and wishes aren’t all that they first appear to be. Quite reasonably – and despite everyone’s best intentions – there’s genuine fear that opening the border with communist North Korea would severely tax South Korea’s finances, infrastructure and daily lives. It’s almost as if reunification feels like something the general public has to say they want, even if they’re really not buying into the reality.

It’s kind of like the way American consumers and the media have been crying out for electric and hybrid automobiles, yet when it comes time to vote with their pocketbooks, their hearts just aren’t in it. There are potential financial and infrastructure concerns, along with lingering worries about how well EVs will integrate into their daily lives. Today, hybrids and plug-ins make up about three percent of new vehicle sales, and the vast majority of those models are gas-electric models – one in particular. Pure electrics aren’t yet even a drop in a very large bucket. It’s exactly this uncomfortable dichotomy that rings in our heads as we drive through the traffic in Namyang at the wheel of a 2015 Kia Soul EV prototype.

Of course, one can’t blame Kia for developing an electric car – it has California’s zero-emissions mandates to meet, regardless of whether the segment’s sales suggest there’s a sound financial strategy attached. Kia officials we spoke with at this early drive of the company’s electrified ‘box’ car seemed to tacitly acknowledge the Soul EV’s difficult business case, but pointed to the company’s effort to reduce its CO2 output as part of its reason for being. And besides, their beancounters’ industry-wide projection for global EV sales in 2018 is 600,000 units, so there’s got to be room to grow, right?

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2015 Kia Soul EV Prototype originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 13 Nov 2013 11:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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