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Kia outlines 5-year plan for more green vehicles; Optima PHEV, Niro hybrid, FCV; $10.2B investment

Kia Motors outlined its mid- to long-term plans for the development of a greatly increased range of environmentally friendly vehicles, with the goal of becoming a leader in the low-emissions car market by 2020. Kia said it intends to expand its green car line-up from four current models to 11 by 2020, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles.

The five-year development plan will see Kia further increase its investment in research and development (R&D) into fuel-efficient technologies and new products, with a range of all-new models and highly advanced powertrains for global markets.

The new investment by Hyundai Motor Group, Kia’s parent company, totals 11.3 trillion won (US$10.2 billion), for the development of a range of new eco-friendly models and building the facilities required.

The electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle market will grow rapidly in the coming years, and this investment will enable Kia to meet the growing demand with a range of advanced new products and technologies.

We don’t believe that there is any one silver bullet that can satisfy the demand for low emission technology within the car industry, so we foresee a wide range of eco-friendly powertrains co-existing for an extended period of time. The plans we’ve announced today represent Kia’s ambition to become a worldwide leader in advanced propulsion technology.

—Ki-Sang Lee, Senior Vice President, Eco Friendly Vehicle R&D Center, Kia Motors Corporation

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All-new Optima Hybrid (Korea Spec K5 Hybrid). Click to enlarge.

Optima PHEV and Niro hybrid. The first models to be launched featuring new types of powertrains under the brand’s 2020 vision for low emissions cars will be hybrid versions—conventional and plug-in—of the Kia Optima.

A new addition to the Kia model line-up, the Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) will feature a high capacity lithium-polymer battery pack and electric motor, as well as an efficient six-speed automatic transmission. This will be Kia’s first plug-in hybrid for global markets when it goes on sale in the second half of 2016.

Meanwhile, a new version of the Optima Hybrid (HEV) will offer substantial improvements over the existing Optima Hybrid, with a larger battery pack, more powerful electric motor and revised transmission. Kia expects these changes to contribute to a 10% improvement in fuel economy over earlier versions of the Optima Hybrid.

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

The Niro—labelled a Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV)—represents a new concept from the Korean car brand, and marks the development of Kia’s first dedicated eco-car platform.

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Kia Niro Production Model Rendering. Click to enlarge.

Niro, which will target CO2 emissions of 90 g/km (combined, based on the New European Driving Cycle), will maintain all the practicality and appeal of a compact SUV, while offering greater fuel economy. It will be engineered from the ground up as a dedicated hybrid vehicle.

The Niro’s all-new platform has been engineered in isolation from existing Kia models, and is designed to accommodate a specific set of environmentally-conscious technologies and next-generation powertrains.

Fuel cell vehicle. As part of this five-year plan, Kia is targeting a 2020 launch for mass production of an all-new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, featuring next-generation hydrogen fuel stack technology. Kia is working alongside 300 partner companies to develop the next-generation FCEV technology for global markets. Production of the new Kia FCEV is aimed to be around 1,000 units per year, a figure expected to rise as demand for fuel cell vehicles increases.

Kia’s FCEV will feature a fuel stack similar in size to a 2.0-liter internal combustion engine, which development teams believe will offer drivers a high level of durability and power density from the advanced powertrain. Kia engineers are planning to develop the brand’s next-generation fuel cell stack to be 5% more efficient and offer 10% greater stack performance, despite being around 15% lighter and 15% lower in volume, compared to current generation fuel cell stacks. The result is a targeted range of more than 800 km (497 miles) from a single fill-up and a top speed of around 170 km/h (106 mph).

The durability of the car’s fuel cell stack and electric motor will be comprehensively assessed, with tests of existing fuel cell stacks from Hyundai Motor Group covering more than 200,000 km (124,000 miles) on the road.

Kia’s research into fuel cells date back to 1998, which resulted in the creation of the limited production Kia Mohave FCEV, able to travel up to 690 km on a single fill-up.

Average fuel efficiency to increase by 25% by 2020. These plans will help Kia in its aim to raise its average corporate fuel efficiency by 25% over 2014 levels by 2020. 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.

The investment by Hyundai Motor Group into the development of highly-advanced, highly-efficient powertrain technology as well as smart car technology is expected to create more than 7,300 new jobs, predominantly in R&D roles, over the next four years. Additional job creation is also expected through ongoing investments into the company’s R&D and production facilities, with new overseas Kia production facilities also generating new jobs, directly and indirectly.

Autonomous driving. By 2020, Kia plans to introduce a range of partially-autonomous driving technologies to its model line-up, and is aiming to bring its first fully-autonomous car to market by 2030.

The initial stage of investment by Kia—totalling US$2 billion by 2018—will enable the company to develop the first of its new Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) technologies and employ a greater number of engineers. The investment will lead to the introduction of Kia’s next-generation smart vehicles in the coming years.

Fully-autonomous vehicles are still some way off, and a great deal of research and rigorous product testing will need to be carried out to make the “self-driving car” a reality. Kia is still in the early stages of developing its own technologies, and we are confident that the latest innovations—both partially and fully autonomous—will ultimately make driving safer for everyone.

—Tae-Won Lim, Vice President, Central Advanced Research and Engineering Institute of Hyundai Motor Group

Comments

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Google say they believe they will be able to commercialize their fully autonomous car by 2020. If Kia think they can wait until 2020 to have driver assisted systems in their cars and until 2030 to have fully autonomous cars they will go bankrupt for sure. And their strategy is to be good at everything. That is impossible. Trying to do so will make you good at exactly nothing. Tesla has an advantage because they just want to do one thing well which is driverless long-range BEVs. That is serious focusing and the reason they have no serious competition currently despite being much less resourceful than their pears.

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