Kia has been coming out with a lot of new vehicles lately. This year we were treated to the debut of the Kia Stinger, and at SEMA, we got a glimpse of some autonomous vehicles Kia is developing. However, until autonomous vehicles become the norm, automakers need to focus on where the money is, and right now that’s crossovers, SUVs, and hybrids. No wonder Kia has four of their own, including the 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Crossover.
SO, where did it all start? We’re thinking the Kia Optima Hybrid set the stage, a variation of the original Optima, followed by the Optima PHEV and Kia Soul EV – another variation of an original model. The 2017 Kia Niro is the most recent of the trend.
Kia Optima Hybrids
The 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid and PHEV are both variations of the original Kia Optima. They may look the same and share similar characteristics, but the powertrain is much different. Starting with the Kia Optima Hybrid, a 2.0-liter I4 Full Parallel Hybrid System runs things with a 2.0-liter GDI engine with CVVT and a 38 kW motor powered by a 1.76 kWh lithium polymer battery. It may not seem like much, but the engine designs GDI and CVVT completely change the game.
“GDI” stands for gasoline direct injection, a type of fuel injection system that injects highly pressurized fuel directly into the cylinders of an engine during the combustion cycle. Due to its resulting optimization of horsepower and fuel economy, it’s starting to replace other injection systems. “CVVT”, or Continuously Variable Valve Timing, like “CVT” transmission, can alter the timing of air intake and exhaust valve lift events to suit all speeds and conditions, without losing fuel or power. Together, this leads to a total output of 193-horsepower for the Kia Optima Hybrid, with a fuel economy of 39/46 mpg city/highway.
Unlike the Kia Optima Hybrid, that relies on regenerative braking to charge the battery (a process of transferring the power used to top a vehicle (braking) into a generator for the electric motor), the Kia Optima PHEV is a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle. This means drivers can rely on regenerative braking or just charge the battery via an electrical outlet/charging station. With that comes the ability to drive on electricity-alone with zero emissions.
The Kia Optima PHEV is powered by a 156-hp 2.0-liter GDI engine and a 50 kW electric motor, powered by a 9.8 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack. The combined fuel economy currently sits at 40 mpg, and that’s when it is in hybrid mode. If running on electricity-alone, drivers can cover over 30 miles before needing power from the engine. It has three ways to charge the battery: regenerative braking, a Level 1 (120v) charger that receives a full charge in 9 hours, and a Level 2 (240v) charger for use at public station to charge up in less than 3 hours.