Kia has introduced its Ray EV in Korea, and the zero-emissions city car has the honour of being the country’s first production electric vehicle. The car, which is only for the domestic Korean market, shares a general commonality with the company’s 1.0 litre gasoline-powered Ray CUV launched recently; it has the petrol model’s major dimensions. Operating range is up to 139 km on a single charge.

The front-wheel drive Ray EV is powered by a 50 kW electric motor offering 68 PS and a high-capacity 16.4 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack – engineered for a 10-year life cycle – that’s packaged under the rear seat and cabin floor. It’s equipped with an automatic transmission offering two drive modes, Eco and Brake, the latter maximising braking power on downhill runs.

The Ray EV weighs 187 kg more than the gasoline model, but the 167 Nm on call ensures responsive performance, Kia says. In terms of performance, the Ray EV does the 0-100 km/h run in 15.9 seconds, while top speed is 130 km/h. As for recharging times, it’s six hours using a 220V household supply and just 25 minutes in fast-charge mode.

The vehicle has a few small distinguishing points to identify it as the EV version. A flap in the front radiator grille covers an electricity inlet for a 220V supply for the slow recharge mode, while the fast recharge mode inlet is where the fuel intake of the regular model is.

Then, there’s the dedicated 14-inch alloys it wears, which improve aerodynamic performance by minimising drag, but surely the easiest way to spot it is from the ‘Zero Emissions EV’ decals pasted on the front doors.

Inside, the Ray EV features a unique instrument cluster, displaying electric motor operation, battery status and distance to recharge. It is also equipped with the first-ever EV-specific navigation system that features a 7-inch screen and provides crucial information for EV drivers. such as the nearest locations of the slow/fast recharging stations.

The display shows a circular shaped area in which the model can travel with its current level of battery power, so that drivers can see which destinations are reachable without a recharge. Some trivia: there are 500 slow/fast recharge stations in Korea, and the government plans to increase that figure to 3,100 stations by the end of 2012.

Since the Ray EV generates no engine noise, which can be a potential problem with pedestrians being unaware of the approaching car, the vehicle is equipped with a VESS (Virtual Engine Sound System). At speeds below 20 km/h, the system delivers a mixture of recorded gasoline engine noises, which are also emitted whenever the car is backing up.

Safety kit includes six airbags and electronic stability features – VDC (Vehicle Dynamics Control) and Hill Assist Control – as standard. Kia says it plans to manufacture 2,500 units of the Ray EV next year, which will be provided to government departments and public offices as part of Kia’s long-term real-world research and development programme.