Kia Optima Hybrid makes its European debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 3, 2011

Kia’s all-new Optima Hybrid saloon, which aims to boost the carmaker’s environmental credentials, made its European debut at the Geneva Motor Show. The Optima Hybrid ushers in Kia into its ‘EcoDynamics’ era. The saloon was first seen last November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It is regarded to be another major step towards Kia’s goal of manufacturing and marketing environmentally-friendly personal transport for future generations.

The Optima Hybrid is the result of the unique collaboration between many Kia facilities worldwide. In particular, this list includes Kia’s Eco-Technology Research Institute near Seoul and the Namyang Research and Development facility.

It’s expected that further development of the ‘full parallel hybrid system’ on the Optima Hybrid will be done and will be used in Kia models that will arrive in the next decade. Mass production of the Optima Hybrid is set to start in September 2011.

The vehicle makes use of a truly innovative Kia-developed hybrid powertrain that offers a unique mix of performance. The car can accelerate to 62 mph (100 kph) in 9.2 seconds and hit a top speed of 121 mph (195 kph).

It also offers class-leading fuel economy, attaining a 40.7% fuel consumption improvement compared with the standard US petrol version. The Kia Optima Hybrid features a ‘parallel hybrid system’ that can be described as ingenious, simple and cost-effective. The 2.4-litre petrol engine is mated to a small electric motor and drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission without the traditional torque converter.

A special clutch is positioned between the Optima Hybrid’s petrol engine and the electric motor, allowing the petrol engine to de-couple from the powertrain.

As a result, it can be operated in zero-emissions, full-electric drive mode from zero to 62 mph. In addition, the system’s configuration doesn’t need a high-capacity electric motor and generator, reducing both weight and cost.

Press Release

Kia Optima Hybrid

Scheduled to begin mass production in September 2011, the Optima Hybrid employs a truly innovative Kia-developed hybrid powertrain that delivers a unique blend of performance - acceleration to 62 mph (100 kph) in 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 121 mph (195 kph) - plus class-leading fuel economy, achieving a 40.7% fuel consumption improvement compared with the standard US petrol version.

4,845mm long x 1,830mm wide x 1,450mm high.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is equipped with an ingenious, simple and cost-effective ‘parallel hybrid system'. The 2.4-litre petrol engine is paired with a small electric motor and drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission - without the traditional torque converter.

A special clutch is fitted between the Optima Hybrid's petrol engine and the electric motor, enabling the petrol engine to be de-coupled from the powertrain so the sleek saloon can be operated in zero-emissions, full-electric drive mode from standstill up to 62 mph. Furthermore, the system's configuration does not require a high-capacity electric motor and generator, saving both weight and cost.

When setting off, the Optima Hybrid operates in Electric Mode. As vehicle speed increases, the Hybrid Starter motor/Generator (HSG) starts the petrol engine and the clutch is closed, allowing the engine to take over the task of powering the car. The electric motor switches into hybrid operation and serves as either a secondary engine (during full acceleration and hill-climbing) or a generator (during cruising and deceleration) to recharge the battery pack as necessary. Whenever the car comes to a stop for more than a few seconds, the petrol engine automatically shuts off to conserve fuel and minimise emissions.

When braking, the electric motor converts kinetic energy into electricity for storage in the battery pack. The 8.5 kW HSG also functions as a generator to re-charge the battery pack if the state of charge is low when the car is stationary. Throughout the entire driving experience, in everyday motoring, under all conditions, the hybrid operation is automatic and seamless.

A responsive and rewarding drive is guaranteed by the Optima Hybrid's 30kW Interior Permanent Magnet (IPM) synchronous electric motor, which produces 40.7 ps and 205 Nm of torque from 0-to-1,400 rpm in electric mode, and the combined (electric motor plus gasoline engine) hybrid powertrain output of 209 ps and 265 Nm of torque.

Kia's Optima Hybrid employs a lithium polymer battery array developed in partnership with LG Chem. Lithium polymer is ideal for automotive applications and these new batteries provide an optimum balance between power delivery, energy density and thermal stability. Reliability is so good that the Optima's battery pack will not need replacing during the vehicle's lifespan - at least 10 years and 150,000 miles.

Taking advantage of the additional, instant and continuously available torque from the electric motor, Kia has modified its popular four cylinder 2.4-litre Theta II engine to maximise its efficiency and achieve a 10% fuel saving over a regular Theta engine.

For the Optima Hybrid, Kia has modified the six-speed automatic transmission found on the conventional Optima for hybrid application. The traditional torque converter is replaced with the electric motor and a high-efficiency oil pump. This allows EV mode operation, maximises regeneration of kinetic energy during braking and also provides a more responsive drive than competitors' CVT systems. 

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