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Kia’s little Ray of sunshine

Light Ray: Kia’s ultra-lightweight plug-in hybrid concept is littered with green design features and technology.

Kia turns the light on its sleek Cerato-based Ray plug-in hybrid concept

11 Feb 2010

KIA Motors has taken the wraps off its Cerato-based Ray hybrid concept at the Chicago motor show, demonstrating its advanced work on a plug-in petrol-electric powertrain and previewing design elements of its future small cars.

It remains to be seen whether Kia introduces a dedicated hybrid model, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, or sticks with its current model lines for the alternative powertrain.

Some overseas reports suggest the Ray is a pointer to the next-generation Cee’d small car, which is due for release in Europe in 2012. But the concept could equally apply to the next-generation Cerato, upon which it is based.

It also stands as a departure point from the conventional hybrid car Kia now has in production (and which remains a prospect for release in Australia) – the Cerato/Forte LPI, which combines an 85kW 1.6-litre LPG engine with a 15kW electric motor and CVT transmission.

The Ray, on the other hand, is powered by an all-aluminium 114kW 1.4-litre direct-injection ‘Gamma’ GDI engine paired with a permanently engaged fixed-ratio CVT and used in combination with a 78kW electric motor and lithium-ion polymer battery pack.

Power is sent to the front wheels from the electric motor, petrol engine or both, depending on the driving conditions.

Other technology onboard includes an engine-power-saving alternator management system and a gearshift indicator which encourages economical driving.

Custom-designed low-rolling resistance tyres on narrow 195/50-section 20-inch wheels are also designed to improve efficiency.

As for the economy claims, Kia says the Ray offers fuel consumption as low as 3L/100km in ‘pure HEV’ mode, while in ‘plug-in HEV’ mode it returns just 1.2L/100km.

17 center imageThe Korean manufacturer also claims the vehicle can drive up to 80km on a single charge without intervention from the internal combustion engine, and has a total driving range of up to 1200km.

The four-seat Ray concept rests on a 2700mm wheelbase and measures 4400mm in overall length, 1850mm in width and 1360mm in height. This is a touch longer in wheelbase than the current Cerato sedan, but shorter, narrower and lower overall.

The Ray has a slippery 0.25Cd drag coefficient and is built using lightweight and recycled materials. It also features hexagonal solar cells embedded in the glass roof panel to power ancillary systems such as cabin lighting and the air-conditioning.

Drive-by-wire steering, ‘cool glazing’ solar glass and touch-screen controls are all included, and, along with the powertrain and battery, are described as possible indicators of future technology from Kia.

“It is important to imagine early in the design process what people will want in the future from a green perspective,” said Kia Motors Corporation chief design officer Peter Schreyer. “People want to reduce their carbon footprint without driving carbon copies.

“Being green doesn’t have to be an obvious statement anymore and the Kia Ray exemplifies a viable blend of modern, eco-minded features for today’s environmentally conscious consumers.”

Like the Cerato hybrid, the Ray sits under Kia’s EcoDynamics umbrella.

Flush, clean surfaces that minimise edges are employed across the bodywork and aim to impart a ‘flowing’ profile, while the pronounced rear shoulder that runs into a higher-than-usual deck is designed to reduce drag.

Kia says the tapering greenhouse cabin and the long ‘tail’ improve aerodynamics, and that drag is further reduced with a one-piece integrated underbody panel.

Traditional wing mirrors and doorhandles are substituted with motion-detector cameras mounted flush with the body. Rear-hinged back doors and, on the front door openings, a forward ‘cut-out’ design for the feet are designed to maximise ease of entry for occupants.

The cabin is fully decked out with eco-friendly features, such as lightweight materials and a high-tech stereo complete with low-energy amplifier and lower self-heating temperatures for the loudspeakers.

The front and rear seats are made of lightweight composite materials and are mounted on the side sills to maximise space and create a ‘floating’ effect in the cabin.

The main instruments are set in a touch-screen layout, while music files and mobile phones are managed with Microsoft-powered infotainment system with voice- and touch-activated controls.

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