ONLY WE COULD CREATE POP – EXPLAIN KIA DESIGNERS
"A concept car like the POP could only have come from us," explains Gregory Guillaume, Kia Europe's Chief Designer, "designers from other companies regularly approach me at motor shows and say 'I would never even be allowed to try and carry that one off' and it's great to be in a position to operate with such freedom."
Being given its world debut at the 2010 Paris Motor Show the Kia POP is a striking vision of future urban electric transport created by the company's European Design Centre in Frankfurt led by Guillaume under the direction of Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors Chief Design Officer.
"The POP fits in perfectly with our 'challenger brand' ethos," Guillaume continues; "We're trying to stir things up in the automotive world, to surprise people even more. We wanted this car to act as a loose nucleus, a wild atom."
And the chrome-coloured, three-metre-long three-seater with an electric drivetrain, oblong-shaped side windows and front-hinged doors certainly does surprise. Compared to electric-car concepts that have gone before, the POP does indeed appear to start from a very different place.
Peter Schreyer adds; "The POP doesn't point at the style of the next generation of cars, but looks even further into the future. There are a lot of new things, for example the side-window graphic is like a signature, unique with its own character."
Schreyer particularly points out the striking side-window design, the high-tech feel of the dot-pattern grille and taillights, the full-length glass roof, and the simplistic, clean look of the wheels – all pointing, he says, to inspiration derived from outside the usual automotive spheres.
"Many of the things that influenced this design were non-automotive," Guillaume explains. "We were looking at lightweight, aerodynamic things, such as gliders and high-speed bicycles. We realised that the automotive world wasn't inspiring us to achieve what we wanted to achieve."
The Frenchman enthusiastically describes how the heads of the front passengers are perfectly positioned at the centre of the windows' top ellipses; how at night the grille allows Kia's trademark 'tiger nose' to illuminate the darkness; and how the protrusions at the bottom corners of the doors are actually rear-view cameras that relay images to small screens in the cabin.
He continues; "The inside and outside were always designed together. From the start we looked at the seating on that very short footprint and tried to ensure that passengers would have a perfect view, just like in a helicopter.
"The seats are designed to be non-automotive. They're very pure, very simple, almost furniture-like. The front bench is sculpted, with interesting, flowing lines and, because it's an electric car without a conventional engine, we were able to push the firewall far forward," he explains.
The rear seat is positioned at an offset angle facing out from the rear passenger side across the cabin to the driver-side A pillar. It's a two-part affair with a base that flips up when not in use and a back and headrest integrated into the headlining. The resultant legroom is quite remarkable in a 1,740mm-wide car with a wheelbase of just 2,055mm.
Guillaume explains the purple colour scheme; "We wanted just one colour in order to create a calm and peaceful environment. There's such a clean feel inside. When we were working on it, we came across an image of a space ship cabin and it was so clean and capsule-like – like a cocoon – that was a big influence."
On the subject of space travel, the POP has two more interior features that wouldn't look out of place on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. On a small piece of plexi-glass in front of the steering wheel sits a Transparent Organic LED (TOLED) display that shows a speedometer, battery charge gauge and the other main readouts when the car is running, but is otherwise totally transparent.
"We thought that there was a lot that could be done with the driver's main points of contact with the car – a chance to be visionary. The TOLED has many advantages over the current generation of head-up displays, principally that it doesn't require a projector that takes up space and weighs a lot. This, we believe, is the future," Guillaume adds.
Guillaume is also enthusiastic about the secondary control displays; "You get so used to designers trying to make things look overly 'techy', with lots of buttons and switches. But in the POP there is only one button. Everything else - audio, sat-nav, climate control and so on - is controlled via the animated touch screen and the dot animation creates a warm feel for the driver."
Thanks to its striking overall look and intriguing individual features, it's easy to forget that the POP is also in fact a fully-electric, zero-emissions vehicle with a 50kW, 190Nm motor and a single-charge range of 160km. It's powered by highly efficient, compact lithium polymer gel batteries and is fully rechargeable in just six hours.
Guillaume concludes; "You know, 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, noisily revving their engines. Then, when the lights go green, the POP just serenely moves off without a sound."
In cooperation with LG Chem, Kia POP uses the latest lithium polymer gel battery technology, offering the same power performance as a lithium ion battery, but with a 20% reduction in battery size and reduced manufacturing complexity.
Type / capacity: Electric motor with lithium polymer gel battery / 18 kWh
Power/torque: 68 ps (50 kW) / 190 Nm
CO2 Emissions: 0 g/km at tailpipe
Overall length: 3000
Overall width: 1740 (excluding door mirrors)
Overall height: 1490
Top speed (km/h): 140
Range (km): 160
Charging time: 6 hours (230V) or 30 minutes (high voltage)