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Kia Provo Hybrid tech still years away

Reinventing the wheel: The Provo concept car’s rear-drive hybrid technology is not yet ready for buyers, Kia says.

Buyers aren’t yet ready for rear-wheel electric motors, Kia says

Kia logo8 Mar 2013

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

ELECTRIC motors in the rear wheels of Kia’s show-stealing Provo Concept are still years away from production, the car-maker says.

The concept, unveiled in Geneva this week, uses axle-mounted electric motors to drive the rear wheels, while up front it sports a conventional engine driving the front wheels.

However, while show cars generally give a hint of technology that is just around the corner, Kia says its unconventional petrol-electric hybrid is still at least five years away from production.

According to Dr Joachim Hahn, Kia’s head of the car-maker’s European drivetrain engineering department, this level of hybridisation will likely be most viable when car-makers must meet European legislation that requires a 90 gram per kilometre carbon dioxide emissions average for all the cars they build from 2020.

Before that, however, Europe must meet a 130g/km standard combined average figure.

“Our general intention is to always look to see which is the best solution for certain problems,” Dr Hahn said.

“And with the Provo Concept show car we want to present a little bit about what we are thinking in terms of (hybrid) development.

“(But) let’s call it a mid-term solution.

“We are still at the beginning of more intelligent hybridisation.”

Mr Hahn conceded that the Provo Concept’s complex rear-mounted electric motor solution and subsequent four-wheel drive system would add to the car’s price tag, and on-going running costs.

However, he says buyers seeking lower fuel use and fewer emissions - as well as the added traction of all-wheel drive - would justify the extra expense, particularly in a vehicle as attractive as the Kia show car.

“Clearly, if you offer a four-wheel-drive instead of a two-wheel-drive solution, of course it is more expensive,” he said. “And running costs are higher… and people start calculating it in terms of annual mileage.

“But if you can (also) offer the four-wheel-drive then maybe (for some people) the story becomes quite good.”

Kia has sold a 2.4-litre petrol-electric hybrid mid-sized Optima in North America since 2011, while a 2.0-litre version developed specifically for Europe was launched at the Geneva show.

Employing a ‘parallel’ series hybrid system and a 70-volt lithium-ion battery, the latter’s official fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions are 5.1L/100km and 119g/km respectively.

On the performance front, the 110kW/319Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is mated to a 35kW electric motor, to help the Optima Hybrid six-speed automatic accelerate to 100km/h from standstill in 9.4 seconds.

In contrast, the 124kW/209Nm 2.4-litre version sold in North America employs a 30kW electric motor for a 6.2L/100km fuel use figure in US tests.

Kia maintains that neither hybrid version is earmarked for Australia.

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