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Kia downsizes to cut emissions

Mild one: The mild hybrid system Kia debuted at Geneva this week can be adapted for larger cars and smaller models.

Korean brand Kia maps out its strategy to slash range-wide emissions by 2021


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10 Mar 2014

THE Kia Motor Company will cut emissions across its range in the coming years through the use of smaller capacity turbocharged engines and a range of electrified powertrains including full EVs and hybrids.

The Korean car-maker is working towards the recently announced European CO2 emissions target of 95g/km by 2021, one year later than it was originally set for.

At the Geneva motor show this week, Kia announced a number of measures to assist in cutting emissions as well as improving performance, including a new more efficient seven-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) and a mild hybrid system that reduces CO2 by 15 per cent while boosting power by 20 per cent.

The show also marked the European debut of the company’s first ever full electric vehicle, the Soul EV that is powered by a 27kWh air-cooled, lithium-ion polymer battery combined with an 81kW/284Nm electric motor.

Speaking with GoAuto at the Geneva show, Hyundai Motor Group European Technical Centre powertrain manager Michael Winkler said it was not just one thing that would reduce emissions across the Kia range, but a series of measures.

“I think three items will be the key,” he said. “More efficient powertrains. Mass reduction would be nice but keeping the mass would also be an item as comfort items have increased over the years, so mass is a driver, and of course aerodynamics is an item we need to cover.” Mr Winkler said Kia is not just targeting petrol-powered engines, but all powertrains in a bid to make the entire fleet more environmentally friendly.

“If we talk about 95 grams, we have to get down every engine in fuel efficiency. Otherwise it will not be possible. So we will improve all gasoline engines, we will improve all diesel engines, we introduce electrification, as shown with our mild hybrid here in Geneva.

“We will see full hybrid vehicles as we offer in the Optima, we will see Carens as announced during the press conference and we will see full electric vehicles like the Soul. There will not be just one engine that is to be excellent, there will not be one technology. There will be a wide range of engines and technologies we will see in the next few years.” The mild hybrid system uses a 48-volt lead-carbon battery powering a small electric motor that it can be paired with either petrol or diesel engines, and Mr Winkler confirmed that the technology could eventually roll out to a number of smaller Kia models, which could include the next-gen version of the Cerato.

“The configuration here (at Geneva) with the start-stop generator, electrical charger as an option, I would say this is more for D-Segment (mid-size), so Optima level. If you take out the supercharger which is possible, you can also use it in smaller segments. So the technology itself is not fixed to a segment, it is in the end a question of package and costs.” Mr Winkler said Kia believes in developing downsized turbocharged engines as a means to reduce emissions and cut fuel use, and he highlighted the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol TGDi unit that debuted at last year’s Geneva show as an example.

While in Europe this would be a standard powertrain for C-segment models such as the Cee’d or Cerato, Mr Winkler said the turbo-triple “could also be used in the B-segment”, suggesting a pocket-rocket version of the Rio was a possibility.

“Of course, we have the 1.0-litre engine turbocharged for C-segment that would be the standard powertrain but in terms of performance, of course it is the same engine with smaller displacement you get a higher performance range.” The more efficient DCT will roll out in Kia’s next-gen models over the coming years, and Mr Winkler said he believed the company would not face the performance issues German car-maker Volkswagen had experienced with its own DSG dual-clutch transmission.

“We are confident, also for all DCT we offer the seven-year warranty (in Europe), so we have to be convinced that the technology is sufficient to be able to bring it to market,” he said.

“What we observed is journalists writing about our competitors, that is part of our job so we have to take care of items which we see on our competitors as negative.”

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