March 7, 2007 To mark the massive expansion of Korea’s domestic hybrid vehicle development programme, Kia Motors is displaying a very special version of the Kia Rio Hybrid saloon at the 77th Salon de l’Automobiles in Geneva. The European premiere of the Kia hybrid comes on top of the recent announcement that Kia and Hyundai are to supply the Korean Ministry of the Environment with an additional 3,390 hybrid vehicles over the next two years, as part of the country’s on-going programme of ‘real-world’ testing to develop hybrid vehicles for the future. The Kia Rio Hybrid saloon created by Kia R&D to take part in these ‘real-world’ test fleet activities, features a unique powertrain with a 1.4-litre petrol engine, mated to a 12kW, 95 Nm AC synchronised electric motor and a CVT gearbox.
The expansion of this hybrid test fleet (from the current 780 cars) makes the Korean operation one of the world’s largest future-technology test programmes and it is just one of several Kia research and development undertakings aimed at creating eco-friendly cars for volume production by 2010.
The Alpha ll petrol engine is fitted with CVVT (continuously variable valve timing) and generates 90 PS of power with 126 Nm of torque. The high-torque permanent
magnet electric motor is mounted between the flywheel and the gearbox and ‘assists’ the petrol engine during starting, accelerating and hill-climbing. During steady cruising the electric motor switches off, while during deceleration it employs ‘regenerative braking’ to store energy and re-charge its Ni-MH 144 volt power pack.
The computer-controlled system also allows stop/start motoring which switches both engine and motor off whenever the car comes to a standstill for more than a few seconds. Restarting is automatic.
The hybrid Rio is the first Kia to employ a CVT (continuously variable transmission). This type of compact automatic gearbox seamlessly shifts between an infinite range of gear ratios and allows the engine and powertrain to operate at peak efficiency at all times.
This Rio accelerates briskly from 0-to-62 mph in 12.2 seconds, can reach a top speed of 112 mph and returns a fuel consumption of 53.4 mpg. Compared to the standard petrol Rio, air pollutants are reduced by 37% and fuel efficiency is improved by 44%. The hybrid’s CO2 figure is 126 g/km.
To help reduce its fuel and power demands, the Kia Rio Hybrid employs special lightweight components – with aluminium bonnet, boot lid and front seat frames – plus lightweight road wheels, low-friction tyres and electric (rather than hydraulic) power steering. These parts cut the Rio’s weight by 220 kg, or 23% compared to the conventional steel model.
Eco-Technology Research Centre
Opened in 2005, the Eco-Technology Research Centre is a unique establishment dedicated to spearheading the development of cleaner, greener future transportation. The ETRC is just one of five Kia R&D Centres around the world with
a global staff of more than 10,000 and annual operating budgets of approximately 3.0 billion Euros – between 5-to-6% of annual revenues.
The 7.5-acre facility at Yongin in Korea, is itself the embodiment of environmental awareness, with double-skinned walls to create a greenhouse effect in winter and natural ventilation in summer, plus a geo-thermal heat exchange system and an overall design which allows maximum use of natural light.
Inside, Yongin is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities such as a 700-bar hydrogen filling station, fuel-cell durability test stations, hot/cold test chambers, emissions reduction laboratories and a robotic car dismantling and recycling plant.
Yongin together with Namyang, was responsible for the creation of the ‘second generation’ Sportage Fuel-Cell vehicle (shown at the Paris Show in 2004) and overseeing the operation of the test fleet of vehicles in Korea and the USA. For this version of the Sportage, Kia’s researchers developed a new-style fuel cell that could operate efficiently in freezing conditions, down to -20°C.
Materials and Processes Research
While fuel-cell and hybrid vehicles offer realistic paths to eco-friendly future transport for some segments of the car market, the whole issue of climate-change is being addressed by Kia across a broad spread of diverse programmes aimed at protecting the environment and conserving non-renewable resources.
Kia staff at Yongin and Namyang are the driving force behind R&D which is investigating low emission vehicles, lightweight vehicles and both materials-saving and energy-saving vehicles and component production processes.
Elements of the low-emissions technology programme include ultra-high heat resistant catalysts, dual-pipe exhaust systems to maximise low-temperature catalyst activity at engine start-up, an air-purifying radiator which removes ozone from the air and a range of diesel exhaust filtering systems. By 2010, Kia aims to have a diesel catalyst system that will absorb 90% of NOx emissions.
Kia’s lightweight vehicle programme is studying the broad use of substitute materials – replacing regular steel with high-strength steel, aluminium or magnesium – and the simplification of design so that future cars will have fewer and less complex components. Highly recyclable, aluminium has great appeal and Kia has developed a new welding process which provides 150% of the conventional steel spot-welding strength.
Although aluminium, magnesium and plastics will all have a role to play in future vehicles, for some time to come high-volume cars will rely on steel for their chassis structure. High-strength steel is at least 25% stronger than regular steel and also gives a 10% weight saving. In 2006, every Kia car incorporates some high-strength steel and Kia intends to raise that content to more than 70% of chassis parts over the next five years.