EcoDynamics is the green umbrella for a wide range of technologies at Kia with the goal of leading to alternative-fuel cars with zero tailpipe emissions, a process that is already well advanced. Kias with electrified drive trains will be emerging as early as 2012 and already the company has its first hybrid on sale in some markets, based on the new Optima.
But Kia believes the biggest impact will come about through radical improvements to the economy and emissions of cars with petrol and diesel engines, which will continue to be the dominant power source for at least the next two decades.
Gasoline direct-injection (GDi) petrol engines will continue this process. The recently launched Soul facelift has a 1.6 GDi engine with increased power output and better emissions. The Optima, a car which has yet to come to the UK, was introduced in the USA with a 2.0-litre GDi turbo engine delivering V6 performance without the fuel penalty. It is only a start to what Kia has in mind.
Kia is also working on a double-clutch transmission to deliver the convenience of an automatic with even better fuel economy than a manual. And it has developed its own continuously variable transmission for hybrid vehicles, which is cutting fuel consumption by 7% compared with a conventional automatic.
The company has set itself the target of making its entire range 10% lighter by 2015, which would bring about a 3.2% reduction in fuel consumption. Lightweight materials will replace steel where it is feasible, and the number of parts will be reduced. The kind of detailed thinking that Kia designers are applying is seen to good effect in the case for the air conditioning unit in the Optima. It is made of glass bubbles rather than polypropylene and is therefore 10% lighter.
An Active Eco system that deters unnecessary acceleration by restricting engine torque in certain circumstances is under development, as is a Smart Cruise Control that can brake and accelerate the car as well as maintain a set speed. Both are showing promising fuel consumption improvements.
Kia’s engineers have developed a system that rates how efficiently you are driving on a scale of zero to eight. Reach eight and a flower symbol appears on the dashboard. Maintain that over a period of time and the flower becomes a bouquet.