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More details on the coming new Kia Optima hybrid and plug-in hybrid

Kia Motors has provided a few more details on the new hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains planned for the all-new Optima, as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to broaden its global range of low-emission vehicles. (Earlier post.)

A new addition to the Kia model line-up, the Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) will be Kia’s first plug-in hybrid for global markets when it goes on sale in the second half of 2016, offering increased battery capacity and pure electric range. Meanwhile, the new Optima Hybrid (HEV) will offer buyers substantial improvements over the existing Optima Hybrid, with a larger battery pack, more powerful electric motor and revised transmission. These changes are expected to contribute to a 10% improvement in fuel economy over earlier versions of the Optima Hybrid.

Optima PHEV. The next-generation Optima PHEV will feature a 9.8 kWh lithium-polymer battery back—roughly six times the energy output of that found in the current-generation Optima Hybrid. Paired with a 50 kW electric motor—itself 42% more powerful than in the previous Optima hybrid version—the combination allows the Optima PHEV to operate in pure-electric mode at higher speeds.

Engineering teams working on the Kia Optima PHEV are expecting the car to go on sale with the ability to travel up to 27 miles on electric power alone (as does its cousin, the Hyundai Sonata PHEV, earlier post), placing the Optima PHEV among the leaders in the D-segment for pure-electric range.

The powertrain has the 156 PS, 189 N·m (139 lb-ft) 2.0-liter Nu four-cylinder GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine at its core. The engine is coupled with the electric motor, which allows the car to operate in charge-sustaining mode (just like the current Optima Hybrid) once the battery runs out of charge. The powertrain’s total power output is 205 PS at 6,000 rpm, with the application of the electric motor facilitating an immediate engine response to throttle inputs.

This power will be applied to the road through a six-speed automatic gearbox and the transmission-mounted 50 kW electric motor, which replaces the traditional torque converter in non-hybrid Optima models.

The Optima PHEV will offer a seamless blend of highly-efficient electric and internal combustion power, and a consistently high level of performance.

Based on internal tests carried out to date, the Optima PHEV is expected to deliver 119MPGe combined (99 US mpge), while engineers are targeting 48 mpg combined (40 US mpg) in charge-sustaining mode. Once plugged in, the PHEV will recharge in less than three hours at a 240V Level 2 charging station, or nine hours from a standard 120V power outlet.

Optima Hybrid. The next-generation hybrid model will feature a range of updates to boost fuel economy by 10% and improve the model’s packaging.

At the heart of the new Optima Hybrid is the 156 PS 2.0-liter ‘Nu’ GDI engine, coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission. The upgraded transmission houses a 38 kW electric motor and clutch to replace the traditional torque converter. The combined power output of the Optima Hybrid’s upgraded powertrain is 195 PS at 6,000 rpm. The transmission also uses a new electric oil pump, contributing to the increase in fuel economy.

Backing up the engine, transmission and motor is an upgraded lithium-polymer battery pack, with a capacity of 1.62 kWh—an increase of 13%. The battery pack now fits underneath the boot floor, rather than infringing slightly on the luggage space available, resulting in a more practical loading area and enabling the use of 60/40 split-folding rear seats.

The Optima PHEV and HEV will offer their own distinct styling features to differentiate them from other models in the all-new Optima range. They each receive an active grille, engineered to balance improved aerodynamics with optimized engine bay cooling. A number of exterior elements—on the rear bumper, grille surround and wheel arches—feature chrome and a clean metallic blue finish, as well as special ‘EcoHybrid’ and ‘EcoPlugin’ badging.

The Kia Optima PHEV’s high capacity lithium-polymer battery pack and transmission-mounted electric motor will be re-engineered for use across other Kia vehicles in future, while the brand is set to launch an all-new hybrid model in 2016.

The Optima HEV is expected to go on sale across the majority of Kia’s global markets in the first half of 2016.

As well as investment in advanced propulsion technologies, Kia will also replace seven out of its 10 current engine ranges with next-generation gasoline and diesel units, while increasing the number of turbocharged engines. Higher-efficiency, multi-speed transmissions are also planned, while Kia engineers are targeting a 5% reduction in the average weight of new car bodies through greater application of ultra-high strength steel.


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