Kia’s Electric Soul Expands the Electric Car Menu

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There’s been a recent spike in interest in electric vehicles going back a couple of years, when Nissan (NSANY.PK) released its Leaf compact, which really began to push the boundaries of mass-market EVs and made significant headway in defining what was possible for scale for electric cars. The Leaf continues to be one of the best-selling EVs on the road — and the best-selling pure EV by a long shot — but in an industry so young, there’s a lot of room for it to blow open.

Joining the Leaf is the Kia Soul EV, which recently made its debut at the Chicago Motor Show that opened on Thursday. From first impressions, its nothing completely unexpected: it’s most definitely a Kia Soul with few indications made to the outside to indicate that it doesn’t consume gas aside from a new front fascia and grill, and some cosmetic touches that differ from the internal combustion model.

Even after the Leaf has been on the market, the new Soul EV doesn’t offer anything game changing to the small but vibrant EV culture. Power comes from an 81 kWh motor, the speed is limited to 90 miles per hour, and Kia estimates its range to be around 80 to 100 miles. Power and torque are, not surprisingly, on the leaner side, at 109 horsepower and 210 pound-feet, respectively.

The interior has been largely left alone from the original model, though the batteries eat up 5.1 cubic feet of cargo space in the back. Bluetooth, navigation, a rear-view camera, cruise control, a power driver’s seat, LED positioning lamps, LED tail lamps, and 16-inch alloy wheels all come standard, so the Soul is a well-equipped creature. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but we’d expect it to be comparable with the Leaf.

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So if the car doesn’t offer industry leading horsepower, torque, range, or comforts, than why make it? For a reason lightly touched upon before — it offers EV buyers a choice. It’s the next installment of greater EV adoption, another option for prospective buyers to consider. Quirky though it may be, the Kia Soul’s unconventional styling has a legion of fans, many of whom would likely leap for the chance to own an electric version.

Generally, competition leads to benefits for the consumer. As companies vie for customer dollars, the real battle happens on MSRPs and capabilities to offer a more compelling product. As EVs continue to gain broader appeal, more players will come on the field and, theoretically, the collective pricing should come down.

The Kia Soul will go on sale later this year, initially limited to the California and Oregon markets out west, and New York, New Jersey, and Maryland in the East. As the infrastructure and demand grows, Kia said it will look into moving into new markets.

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