Design & Technology / Product

The world’s toughest auto boot camp – Kia weathers the extremes February 18th, 2014

The Chill Factor: Sub-zero Winter Test Programme

To what extremes would you go to get the best car on earth?

For the past few months, Kia’s engineers have been testing the Kia Soul EV in Swedish Lapland, a little more than an hour’s drive from the Arctic Circle, where temperatures can fall as low as -35°C. It has proven itself to be one of the most challenging climates to which the Soul EV has been subject.

Although our engineers can’t wait for spring to return, they are also excited to prove the durability and driveability of the Soul EV. The result of their hard work is a range of cars that are designed, engineered and proven to operate in some of the most extreme weather conditions on earth.


Frozen: How the Test Starts

The Arctic development programme starts every day with a full evaluation of the car after a night spent sitting in perilous sub-zero temperatures. The vehicle test team first ensures that all of the car’s moving parts, inside and out – including doors, bonnet and tailgate, as well as interior switches and handles, continue to operate as normal. Engineers also test all the major electrical systems, such as the electric windows and door mirrors, before moving on to the main driving systems – power steering, brakes and traction control in particular.

Sub-zero temperatures mean that snow stays on the ground for months at a time, giving engineers the chance to test the car’s powertrain, brakes, steering and suspension in conditions with very little grip.

Pushing Top-notch Technologies till Proven

This punishing programme goes far beyond the typical conditions which Soul EV owners are likely to experience in day-to-day winter motoring. Not only is the ground frozen, but lakes in Swedish Lapland also freeze over during the winter. With ice between 600 and 1,000 mm thick, it’s a safe environment for engineers to test a relatively lightweight passenger car. Similar tests are carried out on snow and ice, with full-bore acceleration runs, high-speed braking manoeuvres and even a handling test, thoroughly testing the vehicle’s on-the-limit ride and handling. It is an ideal place to test latest electronic stability control (ESC) and traction control systems.

Early on in the new Soul EV development programme, engineers identified the need to dramatically cut the energy consumption of the car’s Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning (HVAC) system. An electric vehicle can have its effective driving range slashed by up to 50 percent under extreme cold temperatures.

Testing the performance of the new HVAC systems in such conditions ensures effective reduction of energy consumption and increases the efficiency of the Soul EV’s lithium-ion polymer battery. Four new HVAC technologies are designed also to reduce load on the car’s battery. Chief among these is a new heat pump, which draws on heat from the air-conditioning and electrical systems to more efficiently warm up the cabin.

Enough Warmth to Go Around

A world-first driver-only ventilation system cuts off all heating and ventilation to the foot-well and dashboard vents on the passenger side, while pre-scheduled ventilation allows the driver to schedule the car to heat itself up while still plugged into the grid. Both of these technologies help the car achieve greater range in colder temperatures.

Finally, a new smart air intake control system monitors and controls the amount of air entering the cabin, cooling or heating the car more efficiently and minimising the use of heating or air-conditioning during a journey.

Soul EV drivers will find it to be the ideal companion for low emissions urban driving when it goes on sale later this year, but the comprehensive testing programme behind the development of the car goes farther than the urban environment. A very reassuring thought, isn’t it?

Watch the Soul EV undergo extreme winter testing in Swedish Lapland.

Learn more about Kia’s winter testing activities from this interview with a Kia engineer.

Take a look at more photos from the Arctic Circle here!