Kia introduces Imagine – a pure electric prototype
Imagine is a bold visual embodiment of Kia’s desire to advance into the world of electrification. The prototype was premiered at the Geneva Auto Show this past March.
By John Coulter, Current EV CMO
Whereas the company’s Niro EV is a subcompact crossover SUV, and its Soul EV is a compact “tall wagon,” Imagine is a large C-segment car using a vehicle size that’s extremely popular in Europe right now. Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design for Kia Motors Europe says: “It hints at something familiar, but is something entirely new. I think of it as a category-buster, and a disruptor – it’s familiar and understood but at the same time progressive and new.”
“Automotive design is about capturing the heart and making it beat that bit faster for that bit longer. We believe that there’s absolutely no reason why that should change simply because the car is electric,” says Guillaume. “That’s why our all-electric concept is designed to not only get your pulse racing, but to also signpost our holistic and emotional approach to electrification.”
Imagine is powered by a low-mounted, induction-charged battery pack that energizes a compact drivetrain. Kia hasn’t published details concerning the electric vehicle’s battery size or range, or specs concerning its electric motor(s). No mention of a production schedule or debut in the USA has been announced either.
But we can bet that Imagine will improve on the performance levels of the Niro EV, which Kia refers to as its “electric crossover for the people.” Niro has a 240-mile range, which will likely increase with each new model year.
Imagine pulls together the sporty muscular look of an SUV, the athletic sleekness of a family “saloon” car and the two best qualities of a crossover; spaciousness and versatility. By mixing these elements, Kia is intentionally designing a vehicle which explores new boundaries and sits outside preexisting categories. Says Guillaume: “I wanted to introduce an element to create a rippling effect in the metal, much like the shockwaves you would see if you threw a stone into a perfectly still mountain lake.”
It sounds like “marketing-speak” from an expert, but the great success of Soul and Niro, both considered disruptors of past designs, prove the company’s intentions to envision and produce highly innovative and visually stunning EVs.
Imagine has reinterpreted the iconic Kia “tiger nose” into a solid new “tiger mask” which encircles the primary LED headlamp units. Two blocks of clear acrylic glass housing the headlights create the look of free floating eyes. Predominant shoulder-height Impulse ripples extending along the car’s sides create visual jets of motion and movement.
Nowadays, to attain more range, EV designers do everything possible to boost aerodynamics and reduce air friction. Guillaume and his team of designers discovered many ways to accomplish wind drag elimination. He explains: “The front air curtain; the way the double-skin bonnet channels air through the nose, up and over the front screen and roof; the double skinned C-pillar that creates an air spoiler; the completely enclosed underbody; the wind-cheating ‘wingcams’ and the hard-edged break-away around the car’s rear – all these features collectively boost aerodynamic efficiency and reduce turbulence and drag.”
Creating a vast sky window, a single sheet of soaring glass comprises the windshield and roof; a new theme being used for Next Gen e-mobility cars. And speaking of big, the car has seriously large 22” wheels, shod with Goodyear 255/35 R22 Intelligrip EV concept tires.
The EV’s most identifying signature element is the unusual tan-bronze tint color applied to its bodywork. Kia explains: “Six hand-applied layers of chrome-effect silver paint are covered in a tanned bronze tint that looks warm and inviting to the touch. Highly sensitive to changing light conditions, the depth and sheen further enhances the concept’s curves and contours.”
The Imagine interior offers surprises and amusing touches. With cabin space maximized by a chassis architecture that’s no longer encumbered by a driveshaft tunnel extending up from the floor, an airy and spacious interior has been created. Four leather and silk-covered seats look slim and lightweight, but are incredibly strong. Says Ralph Kluge, Kia Motors Europe’s general manager of interior design: “When you sit in them, you discover that the seats are very comfortable and supportive.”
A floating, center console hovers above the flat floor. Covered in metallic fabric and leather, the large coach doors are rear-hinged and divide the cabin into two distinct spaces. The car contains two voluminous load bays; a “frunk” front trunk and traditional rear storage area accessed via a glass hatch. A design characteristic seen more and more in cars being designed to ultimately become self-driving; the steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals become recessed when the car is stationary.
“We imagined a future where engaging and dynamic cars like this were an integral part of our transport requirements. So it will come as no surprise then that we have named our new concept ‘Imagine by Kia.’ And its message is clear,” says Guillaume. “It’s time to free your imagination, to stop wondering and to start driving!”
Kia’s concept car is short on details (battery size, range, price, debut date), but the tactile Imagine concept car beginning to make its appearance at car shows around the world is a best foot forward indication of what the Kia designers are thinking and talking about.
Kia considers itself an automaker creating world-class quality vehicles for the young-at-heart. Founded in 1944, it’s Korea’s oldest manufacturer of motor vehicles. About 3 million Kia vehicles a year are produced at 14 manufacturing and assembly operations in five countries which are then sold and serviced through a network of distributors and dealers covering around 180 countries. Kia Motors Corporation’s brand slogan – “The Power to Surprise” – represents the company’s global commitment to surprise the world by providing exciting and inspiring experiences that go beyond expectations.
The Imagine EV prototype certainly does that. Current EV looks forward to seeing it enter production and become a reality.