First Look: Kia Ray Concept

As the environmentally-friendly car wars continue to heat up, Kia has been quietly working up its own assault dubbed "EcoDynamics." With a fuel cell vehicle, a natural gas-powered model and a hybrid under its belt already, Kia's fuel efficiency division is stepping up its game with a plug-in parallel hybrid concept vehicle called "Ray" which is making its debut at the 2010 Chicago auto show.

The Ray is a four-door, four-seat, plug-in hybrid based on the Kia Forte platform. Under the Ray's glass hood is a 153 horsepower, 1.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission, used in combination with its 78 kW electric motor. Power can be sent to the Ray's front wheels from the gas engine, the electric motor, or a combination of both. When running only on the energy stored in its lithium-polymer battery pack, Kia says the front-drive Ray can travel up to 50 miles on a single charge.

Altogether, Kia says the Ray will achieve an eye-popping 202 mpg (as opposed to GM's claimed 230 mpg city rating for its coming Chevrolet Volt) and will be able to travel up to a whopping 746 miles before needing to be refueled.

Helping the Ray achieve such lofty eco performance are several green tricks, such as a smart alternator that only charges on deceleration and braking. Other tricks include the extensive use of lightweight composite materials and recycled materials, hexagonal solar cells embedded in the all-glass roof that can power extra lighting or the climate control system to reduce cabin temperature and drive-by-wire steering. Along with the solar cells, the roof also employs "cool glazing" to keep heat from the sun out, which is complimented by nano-laminate films on other parts of the body to reduce heat absorption.

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