KIA POP All-Electric Vehicle (CONCEPT)

Written By: Andrew H. 

                                                              kia pop all-electric concept

Full of Hot Air? - the Kia POP Concept

POP: a three-passenger hatchback with Phillips screw-shaped wheels and Advil pill-shaped windows. Such is the look of the future according to Kia Motors Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer. “The POP doesn’t point at the style of the next generation of cars,” he states, “but looks even further into the future.”

Following a few teaser photographs, the POP incarnate first saw the light of day at the 2010 Paris Motor Show and then made its American debut at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. Reporters debated the relative merits of its electric powertrain, violet interior and glass roof. A few cynics suggested that the POP was an inflated art project, where function followed form, but they missed the significance of Schreyer’s vision: This was a car for the generation beyond the next.

Automotive Art: Edition 2050

Inspired by gliders and high-speed bicycles, the POP is a wedge-shaped hatchback with two front semi-scissor doors and a side-hinged tailgate. It is a visual hodgepodge, no doubt. Yet what it lacks in aesthetic cohesion it makes up for with ingenious design features.

  • Glass roof. Designed like a miniature 1851 Crystal Palace, the Kia POP has no discernible roof. Its megalithic bubble glass windshield is separated from the rear window pane by only a sliver of aluminum. Such a roof allows for improved visibility, romantic starlight and the occasional sunburn. How the windshield wipers would work is anyone’s guess.

  • Oblong windows. Schreyer’s design team “tried to ensure passengers would have a perfect view, just like in a helicopter,” and in doing so created the hatchback’s most controversial facial feature.

  • Phillips screw-wheels. The chrome-plated wheels are placed at the extreme of each corner, eliminating overhang, allowing for steep approach and departure angles in spite of the hatchback’s low ground clearance. This turns speed bumps into a nuisance instead of a nightmare.

  • Rearview mirrors (or a lack thereof). Two interior video screens deliver real-time footage of the neighboring lanes.

  • Purple interior. Reminiscent of a Playboy Mansion suite, the POP’s groovy interior comes in one color: female. The steering column and door trim are lined with more chrome than a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Not for nothing does Kia boast, “A concept car like the POP could only have come from us.”

Perhaps the POP’s most striking features are what it lacks: 27-way power-adjustable seats, night-vision cameras, holographic Siri, and other bits of technology for mere technology’s sake. There is just one interior button, which together with an animated touchscreen, control all the interior features: navigation, climate control, audio entertainment, etc. The traditional instrument cluster is supplanted by a bare, translucent TOLED display. The overall design is clean, curvy, and surprisingly simple. In other words, the future is a 180-degree turn from Kia’s own K900 luxury sedan.

KIA POP All-Electric Concept

Imagination Vs Pragmatism

Every automobile, even a concept car, is obligated to work (even if it’s in a very limited way). The POP must be livable, or else its appeal will burst. Although less than nine feet in length, the POP boasts 5.7 feet of width and scads of legroom. The two front seats are positioned like usual, but the rear jump seat takes a lesson from old pickup trucks. The headrest and seatback are integrated into the wall; the seat rest flips down. The seat faces sideways, making use of the empty legroom behind the driver’s seat. Perhaps it might be best left as a storage shelf? On the plus side, the third passenger can exit through the tailgate (not recommended at prom).

Driving Factor: Urbanization

The POP is an all-electric vehicle. Under its Lilliputian hood is an electric motor rated at 67 horsepower and 140 pound-feet of torque. Pushed to its maximum, the POP can barrel along at 87 mph. Feeding the motor is an 18-kWh lithium polymer gel battery, which boasts a 20 percent reduction in size compared to a lithium-ion battery. The car’s only emissions come from its passengers.

“You know,” mused Kia Europe Design Officer Gregory Guillaume, “I have this vision in my head of a POP sat at the lights at a busy Paris intersection with all these Vespa riders waiting alongside. Then, when the lights go green, the POP just serenely moves off without a sound.”

The importance of Guillaume’s vision cannot be overstated. According to sociologists, the Millennial generation – the parents of future motorists – will eschew waterfront real estate and small-town USA for high-octane urban lifestyles. They look to Washington D.C., Indianapolis, Seattle, Dallas and other helter-skelter metropolises where no one needs a towing winch or studded tires, where life is lived below 55 mph. So the fact that the Kia POP can only travel 100 miles between six-hour charges is of little consequence. What city dweller drives more than 30 miles at once?

If the Kia POP is the car of the future, then the future looks a great deal like Norway, where electric vehicles make up 15 percent of the market and the government plays Santa Claus with EV incentives. People will be stacked on top of people in apartments and condominiums and will charge their phablets and automobiles using the same wireless charger. And if the POP has anything to say, everything will be purple.