Kia to Reveal Pop, a Zero-Emissions Concept Car, in Paris

Kia has offered a preview of a zero-emissions city car concept that it will unveil at the Paris auto show on Sept. 30. The Pop concept, as it is called, is about a foot longer than a Smart Fortwo and offers seating for three.

Kia has released little information about the concept, which it describes as zero-emissions and convention-challenging — as well as “design-led.”

The design is apparently Pop Art-inspired in its playfulness. Teaser images show a vehicle whose style owes more to electronic and other product design than to automobile design traditions. The car is equipped with gogglelike oval side windows, which are shaped something like drug capsules. Its wheels wear a central cross pattern, like an oversize Phillips screw head.

These shapes could have been drawn with a set of basic drafting templates — or perhaps borrowed from the kit of imagery characteristic of the designer Karim Rashid.

Other details speak of a jarringly different style, like the more biomorphic headlamps, with insectoid, multiple lenses wrapped inside shapes like a set of parentheses. The taillights appear to sprinkle LEDs through the bumper area and have a science-fiction quality to them.

The Pop comes with its own logo, whose “o” is oval like the side windows.

As for passengers, the three-seat configuration has become popular in recent city car designs. It’s one of several seating configurations offered in Gordon Murray Design’s recently unveiled T.25 city car. Kia’s designers appear to be contemplating installing parents in front and a single child in a back seat.

Under Peter Schreyer, a former Audi design chief, and Tom Kearns, a former Cadillac designer, Kia has become known for pushing the edge of design innovation with vehicles like the Soul compact S.U.V. Electric car technology offers designers new possibilities. Without a bulky engine to accommodate upfront, electric cars tend to become more podlike, passenger capsules, riding rafts of batteries.

There appears to be a rationale behind the Pop: because they are now electronic devices, automobiles should resort to the imagery of such devices. Cars of the future, perhaps Kia is arguing, can look like MP3 players or mobile phones.