Launch an SUV/crossover; watch it become a success in multiple markets; introduce an electric version and hope for a similarly positive response. It’s not the first time such a strategy has been implemented by an OEM, and the Kia e-Niro certainly won’t be the last. The Niro and sister vehicle, the Kona from Hyundai, have allowed the Korean manufacturers to establish themselves within the compact crossover market—Kia has sold 200,000 Niros worldwide since 2016—and the electric versions of the duo will further justify the presence of the newcomers in a highly competitive market.
Already available as hybrid and plug-in hybrid, the electric Niro gives customers yet another alternative to internal-combustion-engine models. The second pure EV to be marketed by Kia after the Soul EV, e-Niro will go on sale in European markets before the end of the year, despite being designed in the company’s design centers in California and Korea. The car will stand out from the other alternative powertrain models in the range with touches such as an aerodynamic “tiger nose” grille with integrated charging port, a de-bossed Niro logo, and blue trim highlights. A further aerodynamic benefit can be found with redesigned front and rear bumpers, while the rear of the car gets a bespoke LED rear light design.
Kia bosses announced at the 2018 Paris Motor Show that the e-Niro will be equipped in Europe with a high-capacity 64-kW·h lithium-ion polymer battery pack. On the WLTP combined cycle, this powerpack would provide a driving range of more than 301 mi (484 km); on the WLTP urban cycle, this figure jumps up to 382 mi (615 km). As an alternative, a 39.2-kW·h battery pack will be offered that provides a range of 193 mi (311 km), WLTP combined. Using a 100-kW fast charger, the e-Niro’s battery can be recharged from 20% to 80% in 42 min.
Those who choose the 64 kW·h battery will see it paired with a 150-kW motor that produces 395 N·m (291 lb·ft) of torque, enabling the e-Niro to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h (62 mph) in under 8 s. Meanwhile, the standard 39.2-kW·h pack works with a 100-kW motor that also has a maximum torque of 395 N·m and accelerating to 100 km/h in 9.8 s.
The e-Niro provides owners with numerous technologies to enhance battery efficiency and improve the car’s range. As well as regenerative braking there is the Eco Driving Assistant System (Eco DAS) that advises drivers on how to drive more efficiently. The Eco DAS platform includes Coasting Guide Control (CGC) and Predictive Energy Control (PEC), enabling drivers to maximize vehicle range by suggesting when to coast or brake.
CGC alerts drivers as to the best time to lift off the accelerator and coast towards a junction, allowing the battery to regenerate under engine deceleration. Operating at certain speeds when a navigation destination is set, the system alerts drivers when to coast via a small icon in the instrument cluster as well as an unobtrusive audible warning.
While the electric motor requires no transmission, the car still features a pair of metal paddles behind the steering wheel. These paddles let drivers choose between three levels of energy recuperation. The higher the level of recuperation chosen by the driver, the more energy the regenerative brakes try to harvest.
Other measures to help optimize efficiency and e-Niro’s range include a battery heating system that insulates and warms up the battery while the vehicle is plugged in. This innovation helps to minimize the adverse effects of cold temperatures when restarting a journey. Another technology is an advanced heat pump, which draws on heat energy from the air-conditioning and electrical systems. Instead of relying entirely on battery power to heat the cabin, the heat pump recycles this heat energy to improve the efficiency of the car’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. The system comprises a compressor, evaporator and condenser, which improve the car’s ability to efficiently heat up the cabin, minimizing electricity consumption from the battery.