Georgia, 12 February 2015: Aligning form and function to conceive a uniquely compelling vehicle for the city-dweller-turned-outdoor-adventurer, Kia Motors America (KMA) today took the wraps off the boldly designed Trail’ster e-AWD concept at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. Based on the brand’s iconic Soul urban passenger vehicle, the turbocharged Trail’ster – with its Polar Pearl Snowdrift/Terra Bronze Metallic paint scheme, roll-top canvas roof and armoured aluminium skid plates – captures the essence of an advanced and capable CUV (crossover utility vehicle) intended for those looking to escape their urban environs in search of higher-elevation playgrounds where snow, mud, streams and trails abound. Efficient and lightweight, the Trail’ster is ideal for transporting adventurers and their gear. With its rugged, functional and upscale approach to an active mountain-focused lifestyle, Trail’ster was dreamt up at Kia’s California design studio, birthplace of the unforgettable Track’ster and GT4 Stinger.
“The Trail’ster concept is a near-future look at how the production Kia Soul would logically evolve into an AWD-capable version that’s built to escape the city streets and roam into the mountain wilderness,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer, Kia Design Centre of America (KDCA). “It takes the go-anywhere capability of an SUV and reimagines it within a compact and sporty package with an expressive design to match.”
The Trail’ster is primarily powered by a robust 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine outputting 188 ps and 251 Nm of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission, matched to an electric all-wheel drive system on the rear axle intended for low-speed assist, enhanced launch acceleration and improved traction in inclement weather or off-road situations. In addition, this approach helps mitigate turbo lag by providing instant torque. The system also improves fuel economy over standard all-wheel drive setups by operating only when needed and serving as an energy recovery mechanism. Further defining the near future perspective of Soul as a capable and efficient all-wheel drive runner, the Trail’ster arrives as a ‘Through-the-Road’ hybrid, which means it has two power sources (a front gasoline engine and a rear electric motor) that make up the hybrid system and meet ‘through the road,’ as opposed to inside the transmission with a common driveline connection. It requires all four wheels being driven in careful coordination, but there’s no mechanical link between engine and electric motor. The link between the two is the road itself.
“This powertrain strategy of a downsized turbo and ‘Through-the-Road’ hybrid power yields a dual benefit of increased performance – torque and traction – and optimised efficiency,” said Kearns. “This is AWD being done the advanced, intelligent and responsible way, while sacrificing nothing.” Should the Trail’ster find its way to production, fuel economy would be targeted at a 25-30 percent improvement in city driving and 5-10 percent in highway driving over the normally aspirated 2015 2.0-litre gasoline Soul.
The Trail’ster’s electric propulsion system draws energy from a 1.2 kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery powering a 27 kW, 270 volt AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motor outputting 36 ps and 100 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels and bringing total output to an impressive 220 horses and 136 Nm of torque. To further improve fuel efficiency, the system also utilises a Hybrid Starter Generator (HSG) to start/stop the engine as needed (and to feed energy to the high voltage battery), and an electrically driven A/C compressor, which can run when the engine is shut off. This technology is designed for easy, lightweight packaging, with the compact battery pack stored under the cargo floor.