• Kia Soul EV to be based on the redesigned Soul hatchback
  • Features improved aerodynamics and unique styling cues
  • Further details will likely be revealed at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show

Kia announced today that its first electric vehicle for the American market will be the Soul EV, with an official debut slated for the 2014 calendar year. Based on the fully redesigned 2014 Soul hatchback, the Soul EV will piggyback on the new Soul's many improvements, including a much nicer interior and a smoother, quieter ride. Kia is mum for now on specs and pricing, but we'll learn more at "an upcoming major U.S. auto show," according to the Soul EV press release. Given that the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show is right around the corner, our money's on a full-fledged Kia Soul EV preview at the Kia booth in LA.

Kia's recent focus has been on invigorating its conventional products, including the midsize Optima sedan, the compact Sportage crossover, the Rio runabout and the Sorento family hauler. In fact, the only alternative-fuel vehicle in the company's current fleet is the often-overlooked Optima Hybrid, which is still fundamentally a gas-powered car.

But changing market conditions have forced Kia's hand, and looming California regulations, which require a certain number of each automaker's sales to be zero-emissions vehicles, may have done the same. Whatever the Soul EV's origins, we like its chances in the growing class of affordable electric cars. Having driven the regular 2014 Soul, we can report that Kia's offbeat hatchback has gone surprisingly upscale, with quality cabin materials all around and impressive refinement on the road. Assuming Kia gets the powertrain details right, the Soul EV could be a tough rival for the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV and others.

What it means to you: Stay tuned for more information on what should be the funkiest EV in town.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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