Kia unveils eco-friendly 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid at Chicago Auto Show

Article by Christian A., on February 14, 2016

Kia Motors America has added a new model to its ever growing line of eco-friendly vehicles with the 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid. Along with two other fuel efficient vehicles, the 2017 Optima Hybrid and the 2017 Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle, this brings the number of models under its EcoDynamics eco-friendly sub-brand to three. This is however, the first PHEV offering from the brand and was unveiled during the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.

The 2017 Optima PHEV will have new features and will exhibit new technologies like a stronger and more intelligent telematics system and a hybrid engine that is even more powerful. It also carries improvements on its exterior and interior.

All of these give customers the best hybrid drive experience. According to Orth Hedrick, the company’s product planning vice president, it was important that the company’s offering included a plug-in hybrid as it is part of the plan to make sure that its whole product line would experience an increase in the fuel efficiency by as much as 25% by 2020.

While the Optima HEV already brings hybrid efficiency to vehicle dynamics and style in the new Optima, the Optima PHEV beings this to a whole new level with an all-electric range that leads in its segment, he continued. By introducing the three new vehicles under its EcoDynamics sub-brand during the Chicago Auto Show, Hedrick added, the company is showing that it is serious in its commitment to create sustainable products as well as its principle of not accepting any compromises when it comes to the environment.

This model also has what can be called as a wide range of UVO telematics that has not been seen in any Kia model made. It has more than 30 features which integrate technologies from other telematics vehicles of the brand like the Soul EV and K900 luxury sedan. It is even compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The UVO EV Services also comes with LTE wireless connectivity which allows direct communication in the 2017 Optima PHEV, an important element especially for the remote lock/unlock and the remote start/stop. It even allows for remote preconditioning on the temperature of the interior.

This can all be done using the UVO which even has a full suite of My Car Zone features. These include the speed alert, curfew alert, and the Geofence settings. Occupants can even do a quick and easy local search for points of interest through a Local Search using Google. There are other EV features that are in the 2017 Optima PHEV.

A good example is that it is able to locate charging stations, thereby turning a potential worry to convenience. It can even check the current charge status and even schedule charging. With the use of Google Voice Recognition Local Search, hands-free connectivity is possible. Drivers can download apps to the head unit from the Kia App Store through its Wi-Fi capability.

Exterior Design

2017 Optima PHEV has the same luxurious features found in the brand’s gas-powered models plus Hybrid-exclusive features. These include the unique design elements of the exterior, the allow wheels, and the instrument cluster. The 2017 Optima PHEV though will only have one trim which is the EX. It will be built at the facilities in Hwasung, South Korea.

The company anticipates that sales will begin in the fourth quarter of 2016. Pricing has not been released but the official announcement will be made near the on-sale date.

While the 2017 Optima PHEV may have a bold style similar to the redesigned Optima, it also has unique design elements that set it apart from the gas-powered models and allow it to attain one of the lowest drag coefficient in the segment.

The drag coefficient has been measured at 0.24 Cd, very much like the Tesla Model S. The 2017 Optima PHEV also has its aerodynamics enhanced. One way it does so is through the active grille which immediately opens when at high speeds and closes when the speed is lowered. This does not only help with the aerodynamics but also optimize the cooling of the engine bay.

There are other style differences that make the 2017 Optima PHEV unique. These include the sloping rear bumper and the front air curtain.

The rear diffuser meanwhile has been designed in a way that it covers the exhaust tip and thereby streamlines the airflow. It also comes with alloy wheels that are designed to aid with the aerodynamics as well. Complementing all these are the ‘Eco Plug-In’ badging, chrome side sill molding, and the LED lighting.

Very much like the gas-powered Optima, the wheelbase of the 2017 Optima PHEV is now 110 inches, an increase of 0.4 inches compared to the previous Optima. Total length is higher as well by 0.4 inches to now measure 191.1 inches. In order to guarantee that the driver assistance systems and even the convenience features are available, the 2017 Optima PHEV fully utilizes the technology available.

Notably, Autonomous Emergency Braking is also in the HEV. Under certain situations, it causes the vehicle to immediately stop completely in order to avoid possible collisions or even reduce damage. Other driver assistance systems include Advanced Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning System, Blind Spot Detection, and Front Collision Warning System.


In making the 2017 Optima PHEV, extra attention was given to the driving dynamics and the efficiency. Thus, power is delivered by the “Nu” four-cylinder 2.0-liter Gasoline Direct Injection engine paired with the six-speed automatic transmission.

The expected output has been targeted to be 154 hp at 6,000 rpm. Its electric power is delivered by the transmission-mounted 50 kW motor. This gives the 2017 Optima PHEV better all-electric capacity, considering that the power is 42% more powerful compared to the prior Optima Hybrid model.

Under hybrid modes, the hybrid system gives the shift a more refined quality and offers smooth transition between the different modes from the EV to the gasoline and to the hybrid. In the outgoing Optima Hybrid model, the engine makes use of a combination of a low voltage electric pump and a mechanical oil pump.

For the 2017 Optima PHEV, these components are replaced with the High Voltage Electric Oil Pump which improves the overall efficiency of the engine. In addition, the transmission allows a cooling change from air to water.

Taken together, these engineering improvements result in a boost of the engine efficiency by at least 20%. Total driving range of the 2017 Optima PHEV has been estimated to be 600 miles. Its battery system has been improved as well with the lithium-ion polymer 9.8 kWh battery pack.

Compared to hybrid system of the outgoing Optima, the PHEV generates 60% more energy. As such, when under EV mode, it can go as far as 27 miles, considered as one of the best in the all-electric segment. The battery pack has been placed behind its rear seat and the tire well.

This gives the 2017 Optima PHEV’s trunk extra cargo capacity, one of the largest within the midsize PHEV segment. This also allows the rear seats to be split-folded in a 60/40 configuration, enhancing further the utility of the 2017 Optima PHEV. The battery system also gets additional power thanks to the modified Regenerative Braking System.

Meanwhile, the 2017 Optima PHEV uses a system with a sophisticated cooperative control between the brake actuation unit and the hybrid control unit, maximizing the regenerative torque. Compared to previous models, it can regenerate 10% more energy.

Once the battery is drained, it can be recharged through a single charging port that is placed on the front fender on the driver’s side. It takes around 9 hours to fully charge the battery using a Level 1 charger or at 120V. However for a Level 2 charger, or a 240V port, the battery can be fully charged in less than 3 hours. For those who want to reserve some of the electrical power, the 2017 Optima PHEV gives the driver the option to utilize the plug-in hybrid mode select system.

The system has three modes. The first is the All-Electric Mode, or EV, and is recommended when driving within the city or for short trips. For long trips or highway driving, the Hybrid Mode, or HEV, should be chosen. Finally the third is the Charge Mode which increases the energy being directed to its battery especially when driving at very high speeds. The energy that was generated while the vehicle was in Charging Mode can then be used when the EV mode is activated.

This helps increase the available electric power without needing to actually stop and charge. One new addition to the feature is the inclusion of the Coasting Guide to its Eco-DAS, or the Driving Assistance System -- a first for the brand. What this does is it ensures that fuel economy is maximized by alerting the driver when to brake or when to coast. The driver is made aware of this through an icon in its Instrument Panel which blinks for about 4 seconds and then activates the one-time audible alert.

Press Release


Kia Motors America (KMA) today unveiled the all-new 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) at the Chicago Auto Show. Kia’s first PHEV joined two other fuel-efficient additions to the brand’s growing line-up of eco-friendly vehicles, including the all-new 2017 Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle (HUV) and all-new 2017 Optima Hybrid (HEV), all three of which are being introduced under the Kia Motors EcoDynamics environmentally friendly sub-brand. A host of new technologies and features in the Kia Optima PHEV, including a more powerful hybrid engine, a smarter and more robust telematics system, exterior design enhancements, and greater interior refinement, all combine to deliver a superior hybrid drive experience.

“As part of our bold initiative to increase fuel efficiency by 25 percent across the entire Kia model line-up by 2020, a plug-in hybrid was a critical addition to our offering. The Optima HEV adds hybrid efficiency to the standout styling and vehicle dynamics of our all-new Optima, and the PHEV takes things one step further with all-electric range that is among the best in the segment,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning, Kia Motors America. “All three of the vehicles being introduced here at the Chicago Auto Show are emblematic of Kia’s commitment to sustainability and our philosophy that you shouldn’t have to accept compromises when making a green choice.”

The all-new 2017 Optima Plug-in Hybrid is crafted with many of the same luxurious appointments of its gas-powered sibling, along with numerous Hybrid-exclusive touches, including a distinctive instrument cluster and unique exterior design elements and specially designed alloy wheels. The Optima Plug-in Hybrid, available in one trim, EX, will be built at Hwasung, 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.

High-efficiency Hybrid Technology

The all-new 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 a class-leading 154 hp @ 6,000 rpm. Electric power is produced by a transmission-mounted 50 kW motor, which is 42 percent 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 percent.

With an estimated 600 miles of total driving range, the Optima PHEV’s next-generation battery system features a 9.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack, which produces roughly 60 percent more energy output than the battery pack found in the outgoing Optima’s hybrid system, and is estimated to achieve 27 miles in full EV mode, placing the Optima PHEV among the segment leaders in all-electric range. 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 thoughtful 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.

All-new Eco-DAS[iii] (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.

Aerodynamic Form and Function

Although the new PHEV boasts the same bold styling as the redesigned Optima, it offers distinctive design features and exterior elements that differentiate it from the gas-powered models in the Optima range, while also achieving the segment’s lowest coefficient of drag, tied with the Tesla Model S at 0.24 Cd. Featuring an active grille, which automatically opens and closes at high and low speeds, the PHEV 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, chrome side sill molding, and ‘Eco Plug-In’ badging. Similar to the gasoline-powered Optima, the PHEV’s wheelbase has been lengthened by 0.4 inches (now 110 inches) over the previous generation Optima, and overall length has increased 0.4 inches to 191.1 inches.

Intelligent Technology

The new Optima Plug-In Hybrid makes intelligent use of technology to deliver a host of driver assistance systems and convenience features. Like the HEV, the PHEV offers Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)[iv], 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)4.

The Optima Plug-In Hybrid has the richest set of UVO telematics in any vehicle Kia has ever produced. With more than 30 features, the PHEV encompasses technology from Kia’s flagship telematics vehicles, the K900 luxury sedan and Soul EV, and adds Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay. UVO EV Services includes LTE wireless connectivity that enables direct communication to the vehicle for features such as remote start/stop, remote preconditioning of cabin temperature, and remote lock/unlock via the UVO app[v]. Included in the app is a full suite of My Car Zone features, which includes curfew and speed alerts and Geofence settings, as well as Local Search powered by Google®[vi], which allows users to easily search for POIs (Points of Interest).

Exclusive EV features for charging convenience include the ability to locate charging stations, an option to check your vehicle’s charge status, as well as scheduling charge events. Adding hands-free connectivity is Google® Voice Recognition Local Search, which can search for POIs utilizing voice recognition technology. Additionally, within the Kia App Store, apps can be downloaded to the head-unit using the PHEV’s Wi-Fi capability.

Available at no cost for the first three years of ownership with no subscription necessary, UVO EV Services utilizes an embedded connectivity solution powered by the Verizon®[vii] network and the UVO smartphone app to provide Optima Plug-In Hybrid owners with an innovative, real-time, in-vehicle connectivity experience.

Drivers are treated to an outstanding audio experience with the available Harman/Kardon QuantumLogic™ Premium Surround Sound Audio System[viii], which includes 10 speakers, Clari-Fi™[ix] technology and an upgraded 630-watt digital amplifier. Introduced in the 2016 Sorento, Clari-Fi is a patented music restoration technology that rebuilds audio signals that are lost in the digital compression process.

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