Design & Technology / Product

Go EcoDynamics! – The Optima Hybrid – Part 1 of 3 May 28th, 2013

About 96.5% of  CO2 emissions, the primary culprit behind climate change, comes from fossil fuels use, especially in the energy consumption and transportation sectors. These figures point to the goals toward which automakers should strive: curbing energy consumption or doing away with  CO2 emissions altogether.

As there are growing concerns for environmental protection in today’s world, Kia Motors is continuously researching for ways to make our vehicles more energy efficient thereby minimizing vehicles’ harmful effects on the earth. This is where Kia Motors’ Eco-Dynamics come in, our commitment to enhance people’s lives by providing innovative mobility solutions. Today on Kia BUZZ, we’re jumping into a three part series featuring current and future solutions to provide innovative sustainable mobility.

EcoDynamics: Technologies for the Future

Enhancing motor vehicle fuel economy or achieving the goal of zero emissions leads to lower energy consumption and CO2 emissions relative to the distance traveled.How can vehicles achieves these goals?

  1. Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)
  2. Electric Vehicles (EVs)
  3. Hydrogen Fuel cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs)

Kia Motors launched EcoDynamics in 2009 with the release of the Cerato (Forte) LPi Hybrid under this green sub-brand. The name EcoDynamics is comprised of the terms eco from ecology (nature and environment), economy (efficiency), and dynamics (energy and vitality). It embodies our commitment to contributing to the betterment of humanity and the earth by adding sustainable mobility to the existing value of cars.

The Optima Hybrid and Ray EV, both released in 2011, are following in the footsteps of the Forte LPi Hybrid. We have also been running a Mohave hydrogen FCEV pilot program since 2008, but today, we’re going to highlight our hybrid electric vehicle, the Kia Optima Hybrid.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)

HEVs are powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. Compared to existing internal combustion engine cars, HEVs boast higher power and fuel economy as well as lower CO2emissions. The electric motor supplies the power (EV mode) when the vehicle starts or is traveling at low speeds. The electric motor assists the engine during acceleration, and either the engine or motor powers the vehicle when it is traveling at a constant speed. Electricity consumed at starts and during acceleration is recharged by the braking energy generated during deceleration.The engine shuts down to cut unnecessary fuel consumption when an HEV comes to a stop,thus raising fuel economy during stop-and-go city driving, while EV mode driving and enhanced efficiency reduce CO2 emissions. However, unless an alternative fuel source free of CO2 emissions is commercialized, HEVs will never realize zero emissions because they still rely on the internal combustion engine.

Optima Hybrid

Harnessing the technologies secured through the Rio pilot fleet program we launched in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment in 2005, Kia Motors released the Forte LPi Hybrid in 2009 and the Optima Hybrid in 2011. For 2013, the Optima Hybrid features numerous powertrain refinements for smoothness and drivability, including a more robust 47 HP electric traction motor, a stronger Hybrid Starter Generator (HSG) and a more powerful 47 kW Lithium Polymer battery. The Optima Hybrid is noticeably more responsive and performance-driven than before.

The Optima HEV features Kia’s proprietary parallel hard-type hybrid system. A hard-type HEV is only powered by the motor when traveling at low speeds while a soft-type HEV is powered by both the engine and the motor at all times. The motor is what sets the Optima Hybrid apart from existing HEVs. The power-split system of existing HEVs features two motors, one to recharge the battery and the other to power the vehicle. However, a single motor does both in the parallel configuration

Kia Motors has adopted, and this motor is smaller and lighter than those of the power-split drivetrain, thereby raising fuel economy. The secret behind Kia’s success with the parallel system is the engine clutch technology, which other automakers had given up on due to technical difficulties. When a vehicle needs more power to accelerate or go uphill, the engine clutch connects to the engine to make the motor and the engine work simultaneously. The key to this technology is the speed of the connection. After extensive trial and error, Kia Motors managed to lower the connection speed from over 1 second to 0.6 second or less, thus enabling the successful commercialization of the power-split electric hybrid drivetrain.

The battery determines an HEV’s performance as the energy stored powers the motor. Like the Forte LPi Hybrid, the Optima HEV is equipped with a lithium-ion polymer (Li-poly) battery pack, which is lighter than its nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) counterpart but has higher output and energy density. The Optima HEV is the world’s first hard-type HEV employing Li-poly battery technology. The battery system has a quadripartite safety feature extending from the battery cells to the vehicle control mechanism.

The Optima HEV also provides a more comfortable driving experience and higher fuel economy with its HEV-specific six-speed transmission. We have succeeded in producing all the electric power components in Korea, thereby laying the foundation for sustained technological advances and enhancing the competitiveness of our partners.

Kia Motors is laying the groundwork for cars to co-evolve with the changing planet as we believe the opportunity to shape a positive future still remains open. We are investing in a brighter future for humankind by enhancing the eco-friendliness of our vehicle lineup and contributing to the realization of sustainable mobility.

Coming up next in Part 2 of EcoDynamics– The Kia Ray EV