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.
Melding traditional fuel-saving techniques with modern, high-tech ones, Kia also put a special emphasis on aerodynamics to make the car as smooth as possible. All the surfaces are flush with one another and sharp edges are kept to an absolute minimum in an all-out effort to reduce drag. Even the side mirrors and door handles are gone, replaced with motion-activated cameras.
Underneath, Kia has sealed the bottom of the car in order to further reduce drag and employed tall, narrow tires custom-made with a hexagonal pattern to keep with the theme. Above, the daytime running lights slide back to open air intake ducts for the gas engine as needed and a U-shaped decklid extends from the rear of the car at speed to improve aerodynamics.
Open the Ray’s long, coupe-like front doors and the rear-hinged clamshell rear doors and you’ll find even more hexagons in the door panels and seat inserts acting as both a styling element and a lightweight mesh. The leather seats are suspended from the side sills and are made from lightweight composites. Like the rest of the interior, they’re finished in white to minimize heat absorption.
Up front, complimenting the drive-by-wire steering, you’ll find touchscreens for everything, even starting the car and putting the transmission in gear. Kia’s new UVO infotainment system, meanwhile, has been matched with Infinity’s GreenEdge lightweight, power-saving stereo to provide low-impact entertainment. There’s also a shift indicator for the driver to encourage fuel-efficient driving when manually shifting and a hood-mounted, illuminated battery charge indicator, complimented by an LED-lit Kia badge up at the nose.
Kia says all of the technology featured on the Ray is feasible for production some day and likely foreshadows features that will be found on EcoDynamics models in the near future. Should competition such as the Volt catch on, a production version of the Ray concept would be a logical move for Kia as it continues to diversify its brand.