Kia just pulled the wraps off the new Niro EV Concept at CES in Las Vegas. While it certainly bears a resemblance the existing Niro plug-in hybrid electric vehicle crossover, this concept is quite a different animal. The most obvious difference is that it’s all-electric. It’s powered by a 150-kilowatt electric motor hooked up to a 64 kilowatt-hour battery pack. The claimed range on a full charge is 238 miles and the motor makes 201-horsepower. Wait...why do those numbers sound familiar?
Oh yeah, because the Chevy Bolt EV has an identical range of 238 miles and makes 200-hp. This isn’t likely to be a coincidence and it’s easy to imagine Kia marketing the Niro EV as having the same range and a little more power than the Bolt but in the form of a compact crossover, a wildly popular segment. Now, all it needs to do is get the price tag close to the Bolt’s.
But the Niro EV is more than a Niro minus the gas engine. This concept is packed with interesting tech features that make it right at home at CES. It has facial and vocal recognition as an anti-theft measure (just don’t let anyone borrow your car, I guess). The Niro EV also has dual-zone audio called Separate Sound Control System which puts speakers in the headrests allowing the two rows of seats to listen to different things. It uses noise canceling tech to effectively “mute” the other side so the different sounds aren’t fighting with each other. Your back seat passengers can leave the headphones at home.
The coolest part of the Niro EV Concept might be the steering wheel. There’s a touchpad on the steering wheel that you can use to control the things you’d normally control on your infotainment screen in the center stack like audio, navigation, and climate control. We’re not sure how that would work with an airbag in the steering wheel, but it’s a pretty cool idea.
The Niro EV Concept has a smooth display screen in lieu of a grille which we’ve seen on electric vehicle concepts before. Lighting is provided by “ultra-slim lamp technology” which explains the unconventional headlights and fog lights.
This Kia also tackles the issue of the quietness of EVs and how it relates to pedestrian safety. It has a new safety tech suite called Active Pedestrian Warning System (APWS). There are cameras and speakers mounted on the front of the car. If it detects a pedestrian in front of the car, it can tell them “hey, there’s a car here, watch out.”
While still decidedly concept-y, the Kia Niro EV Concept looks like a fairly realistic image of what we can expect from Kia in the near future. We wouldn’t be surprised to see a Niro EV make it to production with at least some of the cool new tech displayed at CES.