Kia is now in the electric vehicle game, properly. The Korean carmaker has revealed its share of alternative-energy concepts in the past, but with the Ray EV, buyers will soon be able to leave Kia showrooms in their own EV.
After last month unveiling a petrol-powered version, Kia has now lifted the lid on the Ray EV and its all-electric powertrain. Kia has also confirmed that the little electric city-car will be offered in the Korean market only.
Kia says it will initially build just 2500 of the Ray EV cars, focusing on government and fleet buyers, before expanding availability to the general public.
We had a drive of the Ray EV on our recent visit to the company's Korean headquarters, punting the "Soul Junior" up-and-down the Namyang proving grounds.
It was only a brief run - little more than an acceleration test and some left-to-right tyre warming - but it's fair to say that if it were offered in Australia and priced on par, it would be a genuine competitor for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.
The Ray EV's build quality is on the same level as the brand's most recent Australian offerings - that is to say, quite good - and despite its diminutive dimensions, it's not short on interior space.
Power for the Ray EV is provided by a 50kW and 167Nm electric motor driving the front wheels, while energy is drawn from a 16.4kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack.
Kia quotes a driving range of 139km off one charge, with a six-hour charging time at a regular power point and 25 minutes through a dedicated station.
That measures up to i-MiEV, but at 1185kg, the Ray EV is 100kg portlier. It's also 200mm longer and 100mm wider, so the additional weight is a reasonable trade-off.
The electric motor is paired with an automatic transmission that offers two driving modes: Eco for optimised battery management, and B for braking mode, maximising braking power on steep or long descents.
Inside, the Ray EV gets a unique instrument cluster that displays details for the electric motor, battery status and distance until a recharge will be needed.
There's also a seven-inch display screen in the centre of the dash, including a navigation system that lists the locations of South Korea's 500 recharge stations - and another 3100 will be installed before the end of 2012.
Whether we'll ever see the Ray EV in Australia remains to be seen.
While Kia has confirmed a domestic market-only availability in the immediate future, it has also confirmed that it is working to bring down production costs over the coming years, at which point it can look at expanding into other markets.
- Length: 3593 mm
- Width: 1595 mm
- Height: 1700 mm
- Wheelbase: 2520 mm
- Kerb weight: 1185 kg
- Type: Electric motor
- Max power: 68 PS (50 kW)
- Max torque: 167 Nm (17.0 g/km)
- Power: 330V Lithium ion polymer
- Capacity : 16.4 kWh
- Charge time: 6.0 hrs (slow) / 25 minutes (fast)
- 0-100 km/h (62 mph): 15.9 s
- Top speed: 130 km/h (81 mph)
- Max range: 139 km (86 miles)
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