“Today’s drivers understandably have many questions about electric cars. They’re concerned about range, the recharging network, and whether electric cars will still be dynamic and engaging to drive,” says Gregory Guillaume, Vice-President of Design for Kia Motors Europe. “So, when we first started thinking about this concept and imagining what its role would be, we knew that the best way to answer those questions and address those concerns was by approaching electrification purely from an emotional point of view.”
“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. 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.”
Completely new architecture
Mr. Guillaume was talking about the Korean brand’s latest concept car – Imagine by Kia – which is the company’s first fully electric 4-door passenger car. Unlike the e-Niro electric crossover, which is based on the existing architecture of the hybrid-powered Niro, Imagine by Kia is underpinned by a low-mounted, induction-charged battery pack that powers a compact drivetrain.
Coherently drawing together elements of a muscular sports utility vehicle, a sleek and athletic family saloon, and a versatile and spacious crossover, Imagine by Kia is intentionally designed to not sit within the industry’s predefined vehicle categories.
‘Category-buster and disruptor’
“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,” explained Mr. Guillaume.
Intelligently reinterpreting Kia’s iconic ‘tiger nose’ grille, Imagine by Kia features a bold new illuminated ‘tiger mask’ that encircles the main LED headlamp units. Separated by horizontal ‘eyelids’, the dipped and main beam units are housed with a single block of clear acrylic glass, creating the effect of piercing eyes floating free of visible support.
“The inspiration for the ‘tiger mask’ was to create the look and feel of the headlamps being suspended within a transparent block of glass,” explains Guillaume. “This identifiable lighting signature could potentially be deployed as a unifying design element across Kia’s future electric vehicle range.”
Human approach to design
The human approach to the design is encapsulated by the ruches adorning its front air-curtain and flanks. Each impulse ripple has a different length and is positioned at a different angle to the next so that light falling on the car’s flanks constantly creates the impression of movement.
The paintwork is a further example of warmth and approachability. 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.
A single sheet of glass is used for both the windscreen and roof, flowing from the base of the A-pillar and over the cabin to create a vast sky-window, before tapering into a double-bubble over the rear passenger compartment.
Even the wheels contribute to the visual relationship that the car has with the movement of light. Each of the 22-inch alloy wheels has four flush inserts of transparent acrylic glass, polished at the front and diamond cross-cut at the back, to reflect and refract the light, much like a cut diamond would, as the wheels move. The wheels themselves are shod with bespoke Goodyear 255/35 R22 Intelligrip EV concept tyres.
Maximised cabin space
The layout of the powertrain created a chassis architecture that is distinctly different to that of a vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. It’s a layout that Guillaume and his team fully exploited to maximise cabin space and create an airy and spacious interior – and one with a wry sense of humour, too.
No less than 21 individual ultra high-resolution screens curve their synchronised way across the top of the dashboard in a layout that’s at the same time both casual and co-ordinated. Those 21 incredibly thin screens are a humorous and irreverent riposte to the on-going competition between some automotive manufacturers to see who can produce the car with the biggest screen.
They may form a striking sculptural feature that neatly ties in with the rippling and light-reflecting exterior design motifs, but this screen-wall is also highly functional. It effectively creates a single unified display from the driver’s point of view, without the ever-increasing bulk and rigidity of traditional in-car displays – a fresh and witty approach on how to move away from traditional fixed screens.
Versatility of all-electric architecture
The versatility of the all-electric architecture has not only enabled the Kia design team to create this open and spacious interior for passengers, but also for their luggage. Imagine by Kia boasts two capacious loadbays: a ‘frunk’ front trunk and a traditional rear storage area accessed through the glass hatch.
“As you all know, Kia prides itself on our power to surprise, and it’s this unorthodox approach that fired our collective imagination, moving us away from the rational, to embrace a warmer and more human approach to electrification,” said Mr. Guillaume.
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