Monday 16 September 2019

Kia plugs into future of driving

Electric is the way ahead and range anxiety is being addressed in the latest models

ELECTRIFYING: Kia will roll out 16 new models in the next six years and it’s already started with the e-Niro
ELECTRIFYING: Kia will roll out 16 new models in the next six years and it’s already started with the e-Niro

Martin Brennan

Kia is on full charge to go down the EV route with 16 new models planned in the next six years, including a fuel cell car.

The e-Niro, arriving early next year, will be the first full EV crossover in the high selling family C-segment.

The Niro has been around for a couple of years but the e-Niro now arriving is a dedicated eco-friendly, fully fledged EV model following on the heels of a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.

There are two levels of drivetrain. We are getting both: a 39.2 (136PS) unit with a claimed range of 289kms (179 miles) and a 64kWh (204PS) unit with a claimed range of 445kms (282 miles).

Both consist of an electric motor powered by lithium ion polymer battery units.

The new model will arrive in showrooms by next April and will be on general sale by June with a big sales push for 2020.

Kia boss James Brooks is surprising some Kia fans with the news that the hybrid will be dropped from the sales charts with the plug-in hybrid retained.

The belief is that the long-range version will be the top seller, although it is more expensive.

This is a good bet as most potential EV customers are concerned about range anxiety and the ability to be able to drive non-stop to their destination without having to search for a quick top-up charging location, which unfortunately are thin on the ground at the moment.

The 39.2kWh units will be in the region of €33,000, €4,000 cheaper than the car with the bigger battery pack (taking into account about €10,000 in grants and subsidies).

This lower priced version is sure to be better suited to urban drivers and those navigating the outer limits of our expanding commuter belts.

The figures quoted by Kia are impressive for range and equally impressive is the 0-100km sprint in 7.9 seconds. Floor the accelerator and the response is immediate.

The absence of gears is an added blessing. The benefits of EV driving will straddle the young/old divide, the more sedate and environmentally conscious will appreciate the reduced pollution and fuel costs, while the younger set will also relish the instant response and turn of speed.

What is most interesting are the figures from Kia technical people in Dublin who have calculated how big a saving can be achieved by driving an EV.

To fully charge a 64kw battery at 15 cents per kilowatt costs €9.60 which (depending on roads, speed, stop/start and mixed driving) can cover 450kms.

The equivalent diesel car returning 6.2L/100kms (45.5mpg) with diesel costing €1.40 per litre would run up a fuel bill of €39.06 for the same distance.

In a short 117kms drive at launch, the indications from the car's computer was that just 115km of battery power had been used, indicating that with regenerative braking, stop/start and driving at reasonable speeds, the e-Niro was capable of delivering on the claimed range.

Non-stop motorway driving at high speeds would unravel these zero emission figures, however.

There are four driving modes to suit the mood of the driver - Eco, Eco-Plus, Normal and Sport.

An instrument cluster shows the battery levels and state of charge and two paddle shifts behind the steering wheel control the level of regenerative braking and the on-board technology can adapt to your driving style.

Kia expects to sell 150 EVs next year and more than 500 plug-in versions.

Expectations are that up to 600 e-Niro and a new model Soul EV will sell in 2020 with combined sales of plug-ins and EV rising to almost 1,000 which would account for 15pc of all cars sold

With a fast charger, the battery can be boosted from 20pc to 80pc in 42 minutes, longer on a domestic charge.

The charging port is in the grille which has automatic air intakes. The boot is 451 litres which Kia say is bigger than the rival EV Nissan Leaf.

Overall, this is a well kitted-out car with good safety features and new battery technology that will do much to relieve the bugbear of the EV models - the dreaded range anxiety.

Sunday Independent

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