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Here’s How the 2024 Kia EV9 Can Put a Light Show on Its Bumper

Kia's new electric SUV has a trick lighting setup where flecks of light spill from the headlights onto the bumper. Here's how it works.
Andrew P. Collins

Whether you’ve only seen the 2024 Kia EV9 in pictures or caught it in person at the New York Auto Show this month, I bet you noticed the vehicle’s trick lighting feature in its front bumper. Inboard of the immense LED headlights are little starfields of light—it almost looks as though the headlights fade right into the painted plastic. The execution of that, as it was explained to me by Kia’s spokespeople, is actually pretty simple.

It’s not a nest of tiny lights affixed to the front of the car, which is what it might look like from far away. The light-sprinkle effect is achieved by Kia using translucent plastic in that part of the bumper, painting it, then cutting out tiny shapes from the paint with a laser. The bumper covers a bank of LEDs that shine through those little shapes in multiple patterns, selectable through the vehicle’s main infotainment system.

At launch, there will be five different display modes (or patterns) for these lights, but two of Kia’s spokespeople hinted pretty strongly that more could be available later through over-the-air updates.

I caught Kia’s Senior Exterior Designer Berk Erner at the EV9 reveal party and he told me that the lighting effect was part of a very early design sketch. Once engineers told his team it was doable, it got locked into the vehicle’s look. Design work on the EV9 began before COVID-19 became a public concern, and much of the car’s look had to be decided while Kia’s team was working from home. Months were spent deciding on a final look for the vehicle’s lighting, he told me.

The EV9 light show, which doesn’t have a cute specific name beyond “Lighting Pattern,” is available on the GT-line trim and up. Pricing is still TBA, but the vehicle’s slated to be on sale by the end of this year.

It’s a very creative design element, and I think it will handily impress many neighbors and family members of EV9 owners, but I can already hear the question my fellow practical people will have: How much is that jawn going to cost to fix if somebody bumps the bumper?

Well, you would certainly not want to be on the hook for fixing the cracked face of an EV9 for many reasons. Besides the light deal, you’ve got a whole bunch of sensors in there, plus adjustable aero flaps … so yeah, I’m going to go ahead and guess respraying it won’t be trivial.

Here’s what the EV9 looks like without the lighting effect. Andrew P. Collins

It’s unlikely that a body shop would be able to re-laser these little shapes back into the bumper after re-spraying it, but it looks like the backlit element is fairly small. And it’s isolated from the rest of the body-color panels by trim pieces. I bet you’ll be able to get a pre-painted replacement piece straight from Kia if you just so happen to damage that piece on its own.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to seeing some of these on the road. And I’m always excited to see car designers trying new tricks to sprinkle a little spice on a new vehicle.

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