Kia Motors America (KMA) unveiled the Trail’ster e-AWD concept at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. The Trail’ster, based on Kia’s Soul urban passenger vehicle, is primarily powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine delivering 185 horsepower (138 kW) and 185 lb-ft (251 N·m) 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-driver runner, the Trail’ster arrives as a “Through-the-Road” hybrid—i.e., the two power sources (front gasoline engine and rear electric motor) meet “through the road,” as opposed to inside the transmission with a common mechanical driveline connection.
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-liter 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 35 hp (26 kW) and 100 lb-ft (136 N·m) of torque to the rear wheels and bringing total output to 220 hp (164 kW) and 285 lb-ft (386 N·m) of torque.
To further improve fuel efficiency, the system also utilizes 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.
Operationally, the rear electric drive system engages in one of three scenarios, depending on throttle position and road conditions:
Under light throttle, the Trail’ster attains true clean mobility as the electric motor drives the car solely for a range of two to three miles.
Under normal driving, the rear electric motor assists the 1.6-liter turbo during acceleration events calling for greater power and torque; when treading off-road or on wet pavement, the electric drive system is introduced when front wheel slippage is detected.
The Trail’ster’s electric motor acts as a generator to recover kinetic energy and recharge the battery when the vehicle is braking or coasting.
For traversing tough terrain, the Trail’ster has been raised more than two-and-a-half inches over the production Soul. In addition, this mountain rover wears Pirelli Winter Carving 245/45-19 snow tires for enhanced traction and utilizes KSport coilover shocks to absorb the impact of rough, uneven ground and rocky surfaces.