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Soul EV showcases Kia's technological prowess

Date: 17 March 2014   |   Author:

Kia is to join the ranks of the manufacturers offering a plug-in vehicle, with the Soul EV arriving in the UK late this year.

Although pricing is yet to be confirmed, the Korean brand is benchmarking the Nissan Leaf, and has stated a real-world 90-mile range for the car. 

Volumes are small, with just 100 per year being the opening goal. "Calling the volume on an EV is a difficult task so we're being pretty conservative," Kia UK chief executive Paul Philpott told BusinessCar.

"From a sales perspective, selling 100 cars won't be too challenging for us. It's not very significant as a volume product - as a part of the range and a technical development story, it's highly important."

Philpott said that, while the sales structure hasn't been put in place, the firm will be selling the vehicle as a package, rather than leasing the battery separately.

"You wouldn't buy a Picanto and lease the engine. We're working though the outright purchase and lease," he said.

"If a customer says they want to buy outright we don't want to say you can only lease - why would you limit the choice for your customers?"

Due to the low numbers, not every Kia dealer will be tasked with selling the EV. "There will be a limited dealer network, then we'll provide service capability for wherever these EVs turn up," explained Philpott.

"We need to take away any uncertainty for customers; new technology needs to be as risk-free for customers as possible."

Kia's UK boss claimed there are three hotspots in the country for electric vehicles.

London is one, he said, because of the propensity of shorter journeys, Sunderland and the North-East, in part because of Nissan's manufacturing presence in the region, and Cornwall: "We were surprised by that one, but it's surrounded by sea so unless you're going east you're not going far."

The corporate sector is where Kia is expecting more initial success. "It will be more fleet than retail, but I wouldn't try and define an EV customer - regionality is more important than channel," he said.

"If there is a fleet that wanted to acquire a number then they would become a flagship for us. If a fleet wants to take 20 of our 100 units per year then we would work with them on ownership cycle and end of life."

The electric Soul joins the regular petrol and diesel version, which arrives in the UK next month.