Kia Comes to the Hybrid Party Late With Their Rather Odd Ray Concept


For green car nuts like myself, the 2010 Chicago Auto Show was a little bit dull this year. Ford really was the only auto manufacturer with anything of note, showing off its electric and CNG versions of the 2011 Ford Transit Connect and a version the 2011 Ford Edge with an EcoBoost engine. In fact, in my eyes Ford stole the show.

But there was one more little nugget to pop out of Chicago this year: the Kia Ray plug-in hybrid concept. Representing Kia’s first foray into the world of plug-in hybrid design, the Ray concept is really nothing more than a showpiece at this point. And it’s a kind of strange looking one at that.

As Kia’s U.S. based design team took the stage to talk about the Ray, we heard nothing of real substance surrounding its performance or fuel efficiency. We did, however, hear lots about its “airy design” and its “smooth, flowing lines.” Sometimes the unveiling of concept cars can be so frustrating. Yet at a show where the other “concept” cars included an upcoming version of Honda’s Odyssey minivan, the Ray certainly took the cake for being the most flashy concept to debut in Chicago.

Whether it’s an attractive flashy car is up for debate, however.

The front is somewhat enticing, yet when you get around to the back everything seems to go horribly wrong. The front looks active and sleek… even a bit happy. But the rear end looks like droopy dog on a bad day. The unbroken thick black line resembles a piece of tar melting over a white rock in the summer sun. Anyway, all that doesn’t really matter. Concept designs never make it to the production level, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

But wait, Kia also announced in Chicago that they will be debuting their first production-intent hybrid model at another upcoming as-yet-to-be-announced auto show this year, and that the design of the Ray was “closer than we think.” Uh. I sure as hell hope not. At the very least, I hope they ditch any thought of including anything resembling the Ray’s rear end.

In the press release, Kia says that the Ray is designed “to reach driving distances of more than 50 miles using its electric motor on a single charge, and has a fuel economy rating of more than 202 miles per gallon, and has a total range of 746 miles.” It sure is easy to write that all down when all you have is a fiberglass model. I guess we have to wait and see if Kia can actually deliver on those claims.

But kudos to Kia for their presentation. They had some crazy sock monkey and orange condom-like creatures on hand to show off the Ray (the creatures are from Kia’s new new advertising campaign that debuted during the Super Bowl). There was also a live band rocking the largely tie-encumbered crowd with funkily rearranged hip-hop and classic rock tunes. Plus there was the free beer from the “Kia Kegger” booths; happily served in “fully compostable” glasses. Anyone hazard to guess how many of those glasses actually made it to the compost? Anyway, the beer certainly helped to make the whole crazy mismatched ensemble more bearable—so thanks for thinking ahead Kia!

Check out the Ray gallery below and decide for yourself if it’s ugly, sexy, or somewhere in the realm of indescribable.

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.