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Kia launches plug-in hybrid

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KIA Motors recently unveiled a new plug-in hybrid, the Niro, at the Geneva International Motor Show. The new derivative combines high versatility and crossover design appeal with maximum fuel efficiency from its new plug-in hybrid powertrain.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid will go on sale across Europe during Q3 2017, pairing an economical 1.6-litre GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine with a 8.9kWh high-capacity lithium-polymer battery pack. The latest addition to KIA’s hybrid crossover range substantially reduces emissions over the more conventional Niro hybrid – engineers are targeting CO2 emissions below 30 g/km (combined, New European Driving Cycle) and a zero-emissions pure-electric driving range of over 55 kilometres. Final electric range and CO2 emissions figures will be published closer to the car’s on-sale date.

Michael Cole, Chief Operating Officer, KIA Motors Europe, commented: “Annual sales of plug-in hybrid models in Europe are expected to grow to more than 600,000 units by the end of 2023, while the crossover market is also forecast to expand in the coming years. There is a clear demand from customers for a vehicle which combines the practicality and ‘cool’ image of a compact crossover with the ultra-low emissions of an advanced plug-in powertrain. The Niro Plug-in Hybrid will be the only car on the market to offer this combination.”

“The Niro Plug-in Hybrid is one of the latest low-emissions cars from KIA which will help the company achieve its global target for 2020 – to improve fuel efficiency by 25% compared with 2014 levels.”

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid is one of two low-emissions vehicles unveiled by KIA at the Geneva International Motor Show, alongside the new Optima Sportswagon Plug-in Hybrid.

Engineers targeting 55-kilometre plus pure-electric range and sub 30 g/km CO2

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid offers buyers a convincing alternative to compact crossovers powered by traditional petrol or diesel internal combustion engines. The car gives owners the opportunity to complete short journeys and daily commutes with zero emissions and lower running costs.

At the heart of the Niro’s new plug-in powertrain is a high-capacity 8.9 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack, growing in size from the 1.56 kWh battery pack found in KIA’s hybrid crossover. The new battery pack is paired with a more powerful 44.5 kW electric motor (offering almost 40% more power, up from 32 kW) compared to the Hybrid model.

The battery and electric motor are paired with the Niro’s efficient 1.6-litre ‘Kappa’ four-cylinder GDI engine, which independently produces 77 kW and 147 Nm torque. The total power and torque output for the Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s powertrain will be 104 kW and 265 Nm, enabling the new model to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.8 seconds (0.7 seconds quicker than the standard Niro).

With greater capacity and electric power output, KIA engineers are targeting a pure-electric driving range of over 55 km. While the standard Niro hybrid emits just 88 g/km of CO2 in its most efficient configuration, emissions for the Plug-in Hybrid model will drop significantly, to below 30 g/km (combined, New European Driving Cycle).

Power is applied to the road through the Niro’s six-speed double-clutch transmission (6DCT), allowing drivers to shift gears for themselves for a more immediate, more entertaining drive than other hybrid models equipped with a traditional electronic continuously-variable transmission (e-CVT). The 6DCT is paired with a Transmission-Mounted Electric Device (TMED), which allows the full output of both the engine and electric motor to be transferred in parallel through the transmission, with a minimal loss of energy. This differs from the power-split systems typical of an e-CVT hybrid, which converts a portion of engine output for delivery through the electric motor, resulting in power losses from energy conversion.

Energy-harvesting and predictive driving assistant technologies

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid provides owners with a range of technologies to enhance battery efficiency and improve the car’s range – in zero-emissions electric mode, and when the 1.6-litre engine is in use.

Regenerative braking technology allows the Niro to harvest kinetic energy and recharge the battery pack while coasting or braking, while a new Eco Driving Assistant System (Eco DAS) provides drivers with intelligent guidance on how to drive more efficiently under current conditions. Eco DAS includes Coasting Guide Control (CGC) and Predictive Energy Control (PEC), enabling drivers to maximise fuel mileage by suggesting when to coast or brake.

CGC alerts drivers as to the best time to lift off the accelerator and coast towards a junction, allowing the battery to regenerate under engine deceleration. Operating at certain speeds when a navigation destination is set, it alerts drivers when to coast via a small icon in the instrument cluster as well as an unobtrusive audible warning.

PEC uses the navigation and cruise control systems to anticipate topographical changes – inclines and bends – in the route ahead. It uses this information to determine when best to recharge the battery pack, or to direct stored energy to the wheels and actively manage energy flow accordingly. For example, if it detects an uphill incline coming up, the system may choose to retain more electrical energy to provide greater battery assistance climbing the hill. Conversely, if PEC detects an upcoming opportunity to coast downhill, it may choose to discharge some electrical energy ahead of time, enhancing short-term engine efficiency in the knowledge that it can recharge soon.

Niro retains crossover versatility with efficient powertrain packaging

The KIA Niro was engineered from the very start to accommodate a specific range of hybrid powertrains. The introduction of a plug-in hybrid powertrain therefore has minimal effect on packaging and versatility.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s high-capacity battery pack is located beneath the floor of the 324 litre (VDA) boot and beneath the rear seat bench. This allows the new derivative to offer buyers greater practicality than other C-segment plug-in hybrid hatchback models, while space in the cabin of the Niro remains unaffected.

There is a dedicated space beneath the boot floor to store the Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s charging cable when not in use.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid will follow its Hybrid sibling in offering an optional Towing Pack – rare amongst cars in the hybrid class – allowing owners to tow braked loads of up to 1,300 kg.

Plug-in Hybrid design and in-car safety and convenience technologies

The exterior and interior design of the KIA Niro Plug-in Hybrid has been adapted to differentiate the car from the existing Niro hybrid.

On the outside of the car, the Niro Plug-in Hybrid features a new satin chrome grille surround, as well as special chrome brightwork with a clean metallic-blue finish, applied to thin ‘blades’ in the front and rear bumpers. The Plug-in Hybrid model is available with 16-inch alloy wheels, engineered to reduce wind resistance, as well as new full-LED headlamps and dedicated ‘Eco Plug-in’ badging.

The interior of the Niro Plug-in Hybrid is upholstered in single-tone black leather, or two-tone light grey and black leather, finished with blue stitching, as well as a new blue surround for the dashboard air vents. The new derivative features a new 7.0-inch full-TFT driver instrument cluster, displaying key information about the powertrain – such as the battery’s state of charge – as well as offering suggestions for a more efficient driving style.

The dashboard is fitted with KIA’s latest 8-inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system, configured for the Plug-in Hybrid model to display current electric-only range and the location of nearby charging stations. The infotainment system provides owners with maximum smartphone integration, offering Android Auto™ and Apple CarPlay™. KIA Connected Services powered by TomTomTM provides live traffic updates, weather forecasts and, in certain markets, speed camera alerts. The new Plug-in Hybrid model continues to offer buyers the Niro’s wireless smartphone charger, letting users charge their mobile devices on the move. A powerful JBL® premium sound system is also available, with Clari-Fi technology to restore the original sound of music that may be lost during the digital audio compression process.

The Niro Plug-in Hybrid offers buyers the same varied range of active safety technologies designed to avoid or mitigate the effects of a collision. As standard, the car is equipped with KIA Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) for maximum stability under braking and cornering. If VSM detects a loss of traction, it uses the car’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system and the electric motor-driven power steering to help the driver retain control. Other standard active hazard-avoidance technologies available to Niro Plug-in Hybrid buyers include, Autonomous Emergency Braking* (Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist), Lane Keeping Assist, and Driver Attention Warning. Optional safety technologies include Smart Cruise Control, Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning.

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Auto rivals team up for connected car demo

Rivals BMW, Ford and Groupe PSA, maker of Peugeot and Opel cars, have teamed up with the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), Qualcomm Technologies and Savari for Europe’s first live demonstration of C-V2X direct communication technology operating across vehicles from multiple auto manufacturers.

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The live demonstration also featured a live showcase of C-V2X direct communication technology operating between passenger cars, motorcycles, and roadside infrastructure. C-V2X is a global solution for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication in support of improved automotive safety, automated driving and traffic efficiency.

The demonstration exhibited the road safety and traffic efficiency benefits of using C-V2X for Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) collision avoidance, as well as Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) connectivity to traffic signals and Traffic Management Centers (TMC). C-V2X was operated using real-time direct communications over ITS spectrum and demonstrated its ability to work without cellular network coverage, and underscores its commercial readiness for industry deployment as early as 2020. Superior performance and cost-effectiveness compared to other V2X technologies, along with forward-compatibility with 5G, make C-V2X direct communications a preferred solution for C-ITS applications.

Six demonstrations were shown including: Emergency Electronic Brake Light, Intersection Collision Warning, Across Traffic Turn Collision Risk Warning, Slow Vehicle Warning and Stationary Vehicle Warning, Signal Phase and Timing / Signal Violation Warning and Vulnerable Road User (pedestrian) Warning. The vehicles involved included two-wheel e-scooters provided by BMW Group, and automotive passenger vehicles provided by Ford, Groupe PSA, and BMW Group, all of which were equipped with C-V2X direct communication technology using the Qualcomm® 9150 C-V2X chipset solution.  V2X software stack and application software, along with roadside infrastructure, were provided by industry leader, Savari.

C-V2X is globally supported by a broad automotive ecosystem, which includes the fast growing 5GAA organization.  The 5GAA involves over 85 global members comprised of many leading automakers, Tier-1 suppliers, software developers, mobile operators, semiconductor companies, test equipment vendors, telecom suppliers, traffic signal suppliers and road operators.  

Cellular modems will be key to the C-V2X deployment in vehicles to support telematics, eCall, connected infotainment and delivering useful driving/traffic/parking information. As C-V2X direct communication functionality is integrated into the cellular modem, C-V2X solutions are expected to be more cost-efficient and economical over competing technologies, and benefit from accelerated attach rates.  C-V2X direct communication field validations are currently underway in Germany, France, Korea, China, Japan and the U.S.

C-V2X currently stands as the only V2X technology based on globally recognized 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) specifications, with ongoing evolution designed to offer forward compatibility with 5G.  C-V2X also leverages and reuses the upper layer protocols defined by the automotive industry, including the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) organization. C-V2X includes two complementary transmission modes: 

  • Direct communication as shown in this demonstration for V2V and V2I use cases
  • V2N network communication, which leverages mobile operators for connectivity and delivers cloud-based services, including automated crash notification (ACN, as mandated by eCall), hazard warnings, weather conditions, green light optimal speed advisory (GLOSA), parking spot location, and remote tele-operation to support automated driving, to name a few.

“This demonstration builds on the successful C-V2X showcase we organised with our members Audi, Ford and Qualcomm in Washington DC in April, said Christoph Voigt, Chairman of 5GAA.

“We are excited to witness the growing momentum behind this life-saving technology and to see our members working together to deploy C-V2X, and to make it hit the road as soon as possible.”  

“The BMW Group introduced the first C-ITS use cases already in 2013 with the market introduction of the BMW i3. Today most of envisaged C-ITS use-cases are already institutionalized. With the implementation of C-V2X, the BMW Group accomplishes the last set of the puzzle with a practical path to C-ITS showing quick benefits,” said Christoph Grote, Senior Vice President Electronics, BMW Group. 

“With its ability to safely and securely connect vehicles, along with its evolution into 5G, C-V2X is integral to Ford’s vision for future transportation in which all cars and infrastructure talk to each other,” said Thomas Lukaszewicz, Manager Automated Driving, Ford of Europe. “We are very encouraged by preliminary test results in Europe and elsewhere which support our belief that C-V2X direct communications has superior V2X communication capabilities.”

“We’re moving forward with seamless communication between cars and their environment for enhancing road safety, as well as our customers’ safety,” said Carla Gohin, Group PSA’s Vice President for Research and Advanced Engineering. “Following the first European C-V2X direct communications demonstration we hosted with Qualcomm Technologies last March, we’re pleased to work with leading automotive and technology companies today to highlight that C-V2X interoperability is a reality.” 

“This demonstration of interoperability between multiple automakers is not only another milestone achieved towards C-V2X deployment, but also further validates the commercial viability and global compatibility of C-V2X direct communications for connected vehicles,” said Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president & president, Qualcomm Europe and MEA. “We look forward in continuing to work alongside leaders in the automotive industry, like the 5GAA, BMW Group, Ford, Groupe PSA and Savari, to help advance the automotive industry’s shift towards a safer, connected and more autonomous future.” 

“As one of the V2X pioneers, our company is extremely pleased to continue to help enable the next step in the V2X revolution that we helped start back in 2008,” said Ravi Puvvala, CEO of Savari. “For the last year and a half, the Savari team has worked diligently alongside the dedicated C-V2X engineers in the 5GAA partnership. The resulting string of increasingly impressive demonstrations is continuing to convince the world that C-V2X will soon be deployed around the world.”

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Fleet management in 360

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An on-board dual camera system from global fleet management vehicle recovery and insurance telematics provider, Cartrack, reduces the costs of managing vehicle fleets, while creating new ways to motivate drivers and improve their on-the-road performance.

Historically, commercial drivers within fleets have been far removed from active management and oversight, with limited tools available in helping fleet owners understand how their drivers actually behave on the road. This lack of visual tracking ability has seen fleet managers struggle to achieve meaningful driver skills development, while also leaving companies vulnerable to poor operational performance and financial losses resulting from accidents.

Cartrack’s Drive Vision system is dramatically changing this status quo.

Drive Vision is an on-board dual camera system that records video footage with a 120-degree exterior view of the road ahead, and a 160-degree view inside the vehicle cab. Not only can fleet managers actively monitor all the footage that they wish, the system also records specific events such as speeding, harsh braking or an unforeseen action from a third-party.

Drive Vision’s video is continuously captured and then made available to users in two ways. The footage is either buffered in the unit’s memory card for up to five days, and selected time slots can be downloaded by the user via a web interface. Alternatively, footage is also automatically downloaded to the system when specific events occur, such as speeding or a collision.  The captured footage is stored at a web address and is immediately accessible to the client at any time. In addition, the data centre’s driver exception reporting mechanism can review the footage against a client’s pre-determined driver behaviour stipulations, creating a balanced and flexible driver performance assessment tool.

Cartrack CEO, Andre Ittmann, notes why Drive Vision is so useful for companies.

“There are two key strategic benefits to the technology.  Firstly, the company has a clear visual record of events in the case of an accident or legal dispute. Achieving this kind of detailed view hasn’t been possible before, and it can dramatically reduce the costs around incidents and accidents, on an ongoing basis. Secondly, Drive Vision is a highly functional, event-based coaching system. It therefore allows fleet managers to develop a culture that rewards excellent or improved performance, while also giving them the power to actively close skills gaps. “

Ittmann also notes that fleet video footage allows the company to monitor and manage aspects of its service and market performance, including the driver’s ability to access a work site, thereby ensuring timeous arrivals at designated locations and the ability to oversee passenger count and conduct.

Ittmann concludes that Drive Vision offers untold long-term advantages for companies.

“Beyond simply gaining a more efficient means to discipline errant drivers, Drive Vision also empowers fleet managers to proactively implement measures that will result in long-term benefits for their company. Ultimately, the company can also reduce costs related to driver mismanagement while simultaneously improving a driver’s skills and their performance on the road.”

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