Kia Motors Promises ‘Advanced, Capable’ Electric All-Wheel Drive Concept Car For Chicago Auto Show

Kia Motors America might have only just begun sales of its fun, funky Soul EV ‘compliance’ car in limited U.S. and European markets, but at this month’s 2015 Chicago Auto Show the South Korean automaker is promising us a brand-new all-electric all-wheel drive concept car which it says will provide city dwellers with the ‘ultimate urban escape.’

This is the first sneak peak of Kia's new concept electric all-wheel drive car. We can't tell you much more.

This is the first sneak peak of Kia’s new concept electric all-wheel drive car. We can’t tell you much more.

At the time of writing, there’s very little to go on when it comes to what this particular vehicle will look like, since Kia has only released a close-up shot of the front wing of the car in question amidst a snowy landscape. But Kia spokespeople tell us that the urban-influenced all-wheel drive concept car will be capable of taking city-dwellers on day-trips off the beaten track to go skiing and snowboarding, camping, hiking and mountain biking.

That means a car that either matches the boxy, practical interior of the Soul EV, or one that is more like a traditional SUV, with plenty of space inside for gear and perhaps roof-bars to enable larger items like bikes and snowboards to be carried outside the vehicle.

And with its large black bumper and front underbody guard clearly visible in the sneak shot, the as yet unknown concept reminds us a little of the Skoda Yeti Outdoor, an all-wheel drive ruggedised version of Skoda’s popular European compact crossover SUV. It could even be an all-new SUV-variant of the existing Soul, although like our friends at GreenCarReports, we’re guessing it’s more likely to be a brand-new crossover SUV based on a brand-new platform.

As much as we'd like it to be, it's doubtful the concept will be all-electric, like the Kia Soul EV (above)

As much as we’d like it to be, it’s doubtful the concept will be all-electric, like the Kia Soul EV (above)

As GreenCarReports point out however, a recent article by German- language magazine AutoBild suggests that Kia is working on a brand-new small hybrid crossover codenamed the Kia DE, which will be available first in hybrid only guise and then later as a plug-in hybrid.

While we’re not ready to call this concept car a plug-in hybrid, it’s entirely conceivable that Kia, like many automakers, is focusing on using the power and flexibility of electric motors build an all-wheel drive vehicle which doesn’t need the heavy, bulky transfer box and prop shaft required in traditional AWD vehicles.

Instead of using a mechanical connection bring power to the rear wheels, a rear-mounted electric motor can provide power to the rear wheels while front-wheel drive power comes from either an electric motor or internal combustion engine and gearbox. This allows for a larger interior cabin space, a flat load bay floor, and a more lightweight, versatile driving experience too, switching off power to the rear axle when not needed to save fuel.

Volvo has used the term 'electric all-wheel drive' before when referring to plug-in hybrids like the Volvo XC 90 PHEV

Volvo has used the term ‘electric all-wheel drive’ before when referring to plug-in hybrids like the Volvo XC 90 PHEV

As for the “electric” part? We’ve seen other automakers using this through-the-road hybrid setup — including Volvo and Audi — use the term “electric all-wheel drive” to describe their vehicles, even though they are generally plug-in hybrids with internal combustion engines as well as electric motors.

As a consequence it’s difficult to make a judgement call as to what the actual power train of this new Kia Concept will be until we know more.

Following on from last month’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit and the smaller, more policy-focused Washington D.C. Auto Show, the Chicago Auto Show is being held this year at McCormick Place in Chicago from February 14 through February 22, with media previews taking place on February 11 through February 13.

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