Kia Previews Dual-Clutch Gearbox, Mild Hybrid System

Instead of unveiling a flashy new concept car for the 2014 Geneva auto show, Kia is focusing on the greasy bits with two new powertrain technologies set to appear in future Kia models as soon as 2015. The first to arrive is a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, with a new mild hybrid system to follow.

Kia says this new dual-clutch transmission (DCT) is meant to replace the existing six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission that can currently be found in nearly every Kia model. The new DCT promises both higher fuel economy and quicker acceleration compared with the current six-speed auto thanks to faster shifts, and Kia says refinement is a high priority for this transmission as well.

This transmission will be making its way onto production Kias in 2015, but we don’t yet know which models will receive the transmission first. It will be interesting to see how Kia pulls off the launch of this transmission, as other automakers like Chrysler and Ford have struggled with in-house developed dual-clutch transmissions in the past when the transmissions proved jerky or unrefined at launch.

The mild hybrid system that will also be previewed in Geneva is a less conventional affair. While most hybrids use lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride battery packs, this Kia system will make use of a 48-volt lead-carbon battery pack that routes through an unusual electric supercharger that boosts the power output of the gasoline engine. Lead-carbon batteries were supposedly chosen because of their better performance in sub-zero temperatures, their recyclability, and the fact that they require no active cooling.

This surprisingly complex system seems like more than just a mild hybrid to us because, like most full hybrids, it allows the car to drive in electric-only mode at low speeds or when cruising. Kia also says that this hybrid system is adaptable to different vehicle classes since the battery pack can be resized for different packages. It is even engineered to work with diesel engines, which makes sense given its European debut. Kia isn’t giving specifics on when we might see this hybrid system go into production, but assures it will arrive in the “near future.”

Look for more news to come about these new powertrain technologies from Kia in the coming months.

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