2011 SEMA Show: Kia Optima Hybrid becomes a pace car

Article by Christian Andrei, on November 2, 2011

On top of the successful Forte Koup motorsports program of Kia, the renowned Soul has also been the official Safety Car of the United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) since March 2010. The company will make a comeback on the track with the USTCC in 2012 with the fuel-efficient and stylish Optima Hybrid, replacing the Soul at the front of the pack.

The USTCC Safety Car will lead the racing field during warm-up and caution flag laps to make sure that the start and restarts of each race are safe. With a combined horsepower of 206 from the electric and gasoline engine, the Optima Hybrid has plenty of power.

However, the crew at GoGoGear.com has provided a few more performance enhancements such as the Magnaflow exhaust system, a free-flow air intake system, rear wing and front splitter, coil-over suspension kit to reduce the ride height, lightweight wheels and performance tires that will adhere to the racing surface better.

USTCC Optima Hybrid also boasts of a stunning exterior with color scheme, custom vinyl graphics and array of lighting, which includes HID headlights and LED auxiliary lights, strobe lights and LED light bar found on the roof to aid in directing traffic while on duty. The vehicle's interior has a state-of-the-art audio and video system, including a navigation system and the Infinity 6 speakers and amplifiers which produce at least 2,400 watts of sound.

The back passenger area has a DVD video system with wireless headphones and dual 7-inch monitors attached in the front-seat headrests. The Optima Hybrid also comes with custom leather seat upholstery with green accent stitching to complement the exterior trim color. The Kia USTCC Safety Car will be seen in action in March at the first race of the season.

Kia Motors America (KMA) introduced its Kia Optima Hybrid at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. The all-new Hybrid is part of the carmaker’s 2011 Kia Optima mid-size sedan lineup. It features an impressive design, a spacious interior, and around 40 mpg class-leading fuel efficiency.

The Optima Hybrid is Kia’s very first hybrid in the United States, and with its design, roominess, and fuel-efficient performance, it is expected to attract people who are in the market for a sedan that does not compromise fuel efficiency for style, performance, comfort or value.

The Kia Optima Hybrid utilizes a powertrain that Kia itself developed and that includes innovations that allow for a superior hybrid performance.

Michael Sprague, KMA’s vice president for marketing and communications, says that the carmaker is aggressively pushing its green efforts and expanding its investments in green cars, as well as in R&D, in the same way that the company has committed itself to design innovations and to the quality of its cars over the last decade.

According to Sprague, by adding its very first hybrid in the U.S. to the Kia Optima lineup, the company is providing consumers with three fuel-efficient and powerful powertrain options at the same time continuing its philosophy of offering value-packed, stylish, and fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Optima Hybrid makes use of a full parallel hybrid system and runs in zero emission, full-electric drive mode at a speed of up to 62 mph, or at any speed in blended gas-electric mode. When the Optima Hybrid comes to a halt and the electrical load is low, its engine fully shuts off and eliminates idle and otherwise unnecessary fuel consumption as well as further emissions.

Durable Lithium Polymer Battery

The exceptional fuel economy of the 2011 Kia Optima Hybrid is largely brought about by its lithium polymer battery. This new battery type, which was developed by Kia and its partner, LG Chem, in South Korea, possesses energy density and power that enabled the carmaker’s engineers to create a more compact yet lighter battery pack.

In fact, this battery pack has a 30-kilowatt capacity but weighs only 95.9 pounds, making it 28 pounds lighter than the nickel metal hydride pack used in Toyota’s 2011 Camry Hybrid. This light and long-lasting new battery pack not only helps with the Optima’s fuel efficiency, but also aids in maximizing cargo space. The Kia Optima Hybrid is set to hit showrooms in early 2011.

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