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Kia's Tom Kearns Defends the Design of the EV9

2024 kia ev9
Defend Your Design: Kia EV9Kia

Three-row electric SUVs from brands such as Mercedes (the EQS SUV) and Tesla (the Model X) use blobby, almost minivan-like shapes to maximize aerodynamic efficiency and seemingly signal their battery-powered status. Kia’s EV9, on the other hand, wears the squared-off bodywork of a traditional SUV, yet manages to slip through the air with a drag coefficient as low as 0.28. Tom Kearns, chief designer at Kia Design Center America, defends the design of the EV9 and shares a little more about the upcoming electric SUV.

Car and Driver: Most EVs tend to wear overtly aerodynamic designs. Why is the EV9 so boxy?

Tom Kearns: Because it looks tough.

2024 kia ev9
Kia

C/D: We’ve heard colleagues refer to the EV9 as an "electric Telluride." Is that fair?

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KEARNS: If you put an EV9 next to a Telluride, I think you'd be surprised at how different they are: the form vocabulary, the detailing, the lighting, the graphics, the wheels.

2024 kia ev9
Kia

C/D: Why make the EV9 look so different from the EV6?

KEARNS: The EV6 is a lot sleeker and rounder. It's sportier. It's got a very low hood. With proportions and surfacing, the EV9 is just a different type of vehicle, so we wanted a different type of design.

2024 kia ev9 prototype
Kia

C/D: What happened to those triangle-shaped wheels from the EV9 concept?

KEARNS: Sometimes you do something like that on a concept and it's super controversial. Sometimes controversy is good. I don't think you should try to appease everyone. But that one was a little more like, "We love it. Don't change anything—except for the wheels."

2024 kia ev9 concept
Kia

Kearns, "a big Nine Inch Nails fan," didn't deny the similarities between Kia's new logo and the band's.

tom kearns, kia designer
Kia

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