Kia unveiled three major hybrid offerings at the Chicago Auto Show: the 2017 Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle; the new Optima Hybrid; and the new Optima Plug-in Hybrid. While the Niro Hybrid was preceded by clean mobility products such as the Optima Hybrid and Soul EV, Niro is the first Kia to make use of an all-new, dedicated eco-car platform and is an important next step on the path to nearly tripling the brand’s global green car line-up by 2020.
The Niro features an all-new, advanced Kappa 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine, engineered specifically for hybrid applications. Making 103 horsepower, the new engine marks the first combination of the Atkinson Cycle, cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), GDI and a long-stroke-narrow-bore specification to maximize efficiency.
Efficiency and emissions are further improved via the Niro’s exhaust heat recovery system, which speeds engine warm-up by routing coolant to a heat exchanger in the exhaust system. A 32 kW traction motor—the transmission-mounted electric device (TMED)—works in tandem with the gasoline engine to produce 146 horsepower and 195 lb-ft (264 N·m) of torque.
That power is transmitted through a newly developed, second-generation six-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). The transmission delivers smooth, quick shifts for a natural and spirited feel in contrast to other hybrids equipped with continuously variable transmissions. A compact and lightweight 1.56-kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery is located underneath the rear seat. Because the high-voltage battery is both power and energy dense, engineers were able to use the downsized gasoline engine to maximize fuel economy and reduce emissions.
Niro is targeting a combined fuel efficiency rating of 50 mpg (4.7 l/100 km).
Applying lessons learned through development of two generations of Optima Hybrids as well as the fully electric Soul EV, Kia engineers designed the Niro’s regenerative system to seamlessly blend in hydraulic friction braking. Consequently, deceleration feels more consistent and linear than other hybrids, according to Kia.
The platform underpinning the Niro was specifically engineered to accommodate the gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. With 53% of Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS), including reinforcement in the A- and B-pillars as well as the roof rails, it is both a lightweight and durable structure.
Extensive use of hot-stamped components and industrial joint adhesive increase torsional rigidity and structural integrity. Kia engineers are targeting the Niro to earn top honors from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS).
Weight reduction was a critical Niro development aspect, and in addition to the body, AHSS was also used to engineer other elements, including novel lightweight seat frames. Further, engineers were able to bring down the overall weight by using aluminum for the hood, tailgate and several suspension elements including the front lower control arms, front and rear knuckles, and in the brake calipers. Even the parking brake pedal contributes to the weight savings through the use of fiber-reinforced plastic construction. Finally, the engineers eliminated the traditional 12-volt battery to reduce weight, instead, utilizing the high-voltage lithium-ion polymer battery.
Designed at Kia’s design centers in Irvine, California, and Namyang, Korea, the Niro sports wide and low proportions with a long roofline and short overhangs that give it an overall athletic profile. Although the Niro has a cohesive crossover theme, it was designed with aerodynamics in mind, with its carefully shaped bodywork contributing to a relatively slippery coefficient of drag of .29.
Copious insulation in the Niro’s front structure, optimized suspension bushing stiffness, careful body sealing, and application of expanding foam inside the A- and B-pillars all block road and tire noise from the cabin. Furthermore, acoustic windshield glass and carefully shaped side mirrors mitigate wind noise.
Engineers also worked hard to address the issues often associated with hybrid powertrains. To that end, they minimized system noise and vibration at the source with specially designed engine mounts, equal-length driveshafts, and even added a damper inside the steering wheel hub to minimize vibrations felt in the steering wheel. Other NVH measures include a special embossed foam in the floor (under the carpet), and a dense insulating pad underneath the hood also help to keep unwanted noise to a minimum.
Like the rest of Kia’s lineup, the Niro will be offered with a suite of advanced driver assistance and convenience technologies. Familiar features that will be available on the HUV include Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist; Advanced Smart Cruise Control; Lane Departure Warning; and Autonomous Emergency Braking.
All-new Eco-DAS (Driver Assistance System) features Kia’s first application of Coasting Guide and Predictive Energy Control. The Coasting Guide aims at maximizing fuel economy by essentially coaching the driver on when to coast and brake. Predictive Energy Control, meanwhile, uses the navigation system and cruise control to anticipate topographical changes on the road ahead and actively manage energy flow, seamlessly determining when its best to recharge the battery and when its best to expend stored energy to optimize overall efficiency. Similar systems have been seen on German luxury makes, but Kia says its system is the first in the industry to monitor and adjust for both ascending and descending scenarios.
Other notable features include Smart Air Intake, which reduces drag by carefully managing the intake of outside air for the HVAC system, and also an accompanying Auto Defog system that prevents condensation from building on the glass by monitoring cabin air conditions to manage the cycling of the A/C compressor.
Optima Hybrid. The 2017 Optima HEV enjoys the same full redesign as the conventional gasoline-powered model—the fourth-generation Optima sedan—bringing with it a new hybrid powertrain that targets a 10% improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing model.
The Optima Hybrid replaces the previous generation’s 2.4-liter engine with an efficient and compact 2.0-liter GDI four cylinder—estimated at 154 horsepower—coupled with a hybrid starter generator and tied to an upgraded, smooth-shifting six-speed transmission. A 38 kW electric motor and clutch replaces the traditional torque converter to provide strong off-the-line acceleration and power assistance to the engine when necessary.
Total combined output for the Optima Hybrid is estimated at a 193 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. Also adding to the equation is a new electric water pump and a new electric oil pump, which help improve overall fuel economy.
A more compact, lightweight, high-density lithium-polymer battery pack with a 13% increase in capacity to 1.62 kWh now fits neatly underneath the trunk floor without encroaching into cargo space. The revised battery configuration results in a larger, more practical load area and allows the integration of 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
All-new Eco-DAS (Driver Assistance System) features Kia’s first application of Coasting Guide. This feature aims at maximizing fuel economy by essentially coaching the driver on when to coast and brake via an icon in the Instrument Panel that blinks for four-seconds and sounds a one-time audible alert.
The Optima Hybrid features an engineered body that combines various high-tensile strength steel alloys, creating a stiffer, more durable chassis with more than 50% Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) construction. In addition, a significant increase in hot-stamped components and greater use of structural adhesive improves NVH and contributes to structural rigidity. This new body structure helps provide crash protection and better driving dynamics and is the foundation for a quieter ride.
Although the new Hybrid boasts the same styling as the redesigned 2016 Optima, it offers distinctive design features and exterior elements that differentiate it from the gasoline-powered models in the Optima range, while also achieving a coefficient of drag that is among the lowest in the segment at 0.24 Cd.
Featuring an active grille, which automatically opens and closes at high and low speeds, the Hybrid is able to improve aerodynamics while optimizing engine bay cooling. Numerous other styling differences include a model-specific front air curtain, a beveled rear bumper, a rear diffuser designed to streamline airflow by shrouding the exhaust tip, and an aerodynamic alloy-wheel design. These are complemented by modern LED lighting, satin finish accent trim and special EcoHybrid badging.
The new Optima Hybrid delivers a host of comprehensive driver assistance systems and convenience features. The HEV now offers Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), which, under appropriate conditions, will bring the vehicle to a complete stop to potentially avoid a collision or reduce damage. Other key driver assistance systems include Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Advanced Smart Cruise Control (ASCC), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) and Front Collision Warning System (FCWS)2.
Optima Plug-in Hybrid. The 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) is Kia’s first PHEV. The Optima Plug-in Hybrid is available in one trim, EX, will be built at , South Korea, and is expected to go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.
The 2017 Optima PHEV was engineered with a dual focus on efficiency and driving dynamics. Utilizing Kia’s highly efficient 2.0-liter Nu four-cylinder GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, power output is targeted for 154 hp @ 6,000 rpm.
Electric power is produced by a transmission-mounted 50 kW motor, which is 42% more powerful than in the previous Optima Hybrid to allow for greater all-electric capability. This hybrid system provides a fast and seamless transition from EV to gasoline to hybrid modes, as well as more refined shift quality.
Overall engine efficiency is also improved by the introduction of a High Voltage Electric Oil Pump, replacing the combination mechanical oil pump and low voltage electric pump found in the outgoing Optima Hybrid. Transmission cooling changes from natural air to water. These engineering enhancements yield an expected engine efficiency improvement of more than 20%.
The Optima PHEV features a 9.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, which produces roughly 60% more energy output than the battery pack found in the outgoing Optima’s hybrid system, and is estimated to achieve 27 miles (43 km) in full EV mode.
To increase available cargo capacity in the trunk, the new battery pack is hidden behind the rear seat and tire well, giving Optima PHEV one of the largest cargo areas among all midsize PHEVs. This change also provides the space needed to offer 60/40 split-folding rear seats, which significantly increases the vehicle’s utility.
Additional power to the battery system is generated from the vehicle’s improved Regenerative Braking System, which maximizes regenerative torque through refined cooperative control between the hybrid control unit and the brake actuation unit, resulting in a 10 percent increase in regenerative energy. The Optima PHEV is equipped with a single charging port conveniently located in the driver’s side front fender. A full charge can be achieved in less-than three hours via a 240V (Level 2) charger, and less-than nine hours via a 120V (Level 1) charger.
The all-new Optima PHEV provides its driver with options to reserve electric range via a plug-in hybrid mode select system. Exclusive to the PHEV variant of the all-new Optima, the system includes an all-Electric Mode (EV), which is suitable for short-range city driving, Hybrid Mode (HEV) for highway driving, and Charging Mode, which increases energy direction to the battery while driving at higher speeds. The energy produced while in Charging Mode can then be utilized in EV mode, extending the convenience of full electric power without stopping to charge.