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.
Meet Aston Martin F1’s incredible moving data centre
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team faces a great deal more IT challenges than your average enterprise as not many IT teams have to rebuild their data center 21 times each year and get it running it up in a matter of hours. Not many data centers are packed up and transported around the world by air and sea along with 45 tonnes of equipment. Not many IT technicians also have to perform a dual role as pit stop mechanic.
The trackside garage at an F1 race is a tight working environment and a team of only two IT technicians face pressure from both the factory and trackside staff to get the trackside IT up and running very fast. Yet, despite all these pressures, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing do not have a cloud-led strategy. Instead they have chosen to keep all IT in house.
The reason for this is performance. F1 is arguably the ultimate performance sport. A walk round the team’s factory in Milton Keynes, England, makes it abundantly clear that the whole organization is hell bent on maximizing performance. 700 staff at the factory are all essentially dedicated to the creation of just two cars. The level of detail that is demanded in reaching peak performance is truly mind blowing. For example, one machine with a robotic arm that checks the dimensions of the components built at the factory is able to measure accuracy to a scale 10 times thinner than a human hair.
This quest for maximum performance, however, is hampered at every turn by the stringent rules from the F1 governing body – the FIA. Teams face restrictions on testing and technology usage in order to prevent the sport becoming an arms race. So, for example, pre-season track testing is limited to only 8 days. Furthermore, wind tunnel testing is only allowed with 60% scale models and wind tunnel-usage is balanced with the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software, essentially a virtual wind tunnel. Teams that overuse one, lose time with the other.
In order to maximize performance within uniquely difficult logistical and regulatory conditions, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team has had to deploy a very powerful and agile IT estate.
According to Neil Bailey, Head of IT Infrastructure, Enterprise Architecture and Innovation, their legacy trackside infrastructure was “creaking”. Before choosing hyperconverged infrastructure, their “traditional IT had reached its limits”, says Bailey. “When things reach their limits they break, just like a car,” adds Bailey.
The team’s biggest emphasis for switching to HPE’s hyperconverged infrastructure, SimpliVity, was performance. Now, with “the extra performance of SimpliVity, it means it doesn’t get to its limits,” says Bailey. HPE SimpliVity has helped reduce space, has optimized processing power and brought more agility.
One of the first and most important use cases they switched to hyperconverged infrastructure was post-processing trackside data. During a race weekend each car is typically fitted with over 100 sensors providing key data on things like tyre temperature and downforce multiple times per second. Processing this data and acting on the insights is key to driving performance improvements. With their legacy infrastructure, Bailey says they were “losing valuable track time during free practice waiting for data processing to take place.” Since switching to HPE SimpliVity, data processing has dropped from being more than 15 minutes to less than 5 minutes. Overall, the team has seen a 79% performance boost compared to the legacy architecture. This has allowed for real time race strategy analysis and has improved race strategy decision making.
Data insights helps the team stay one step ahead, as race strategy decisions are data driven. For example, real time tyre temperature data helps the team judge tyre wear and make pit stop decisions. Real time access to tyre data helped the team to victory at the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix as the Aston Martin Red Bull cars pitted ahead of the rest of the field and Daniel Ricciardo swept to a memorable victory.
Hyperconverged infrastructure is also well suited to the “hostile” trackside environment, according to Bailey. With hyperconverged infrastructure, only two racks are needed at each race of which SimpliVity only takes up about 20% of the space, thus freeing up key space in very restricted trackside garages. Furthermore, with the team limited to 60 staff at each race, only two of Bailey’s team can travel. The reduction in equipment and closer integration of HPE SimpliVity means engineers can get the trackside data center up and running quickly and allow trackside staff to start work as soon as they arrive.
Since seeing the notable performance gains from using hyperconverged infrastructure for trackside data processing, the team has also transitioned some of the factory’s IT estate over to HPE SimpliVity. This includes: Aerodynamic metrics, ERP system, SQL server, exchange server and the team’s software house, the Team Foundation Server.
As well as seeing huge performance benefits, HPE SimpliVity has significantly impacted the work patterns of Bailey’s team of just ten. According to Bailey, the biggest operational win from hyperconverged infrastructure is “freeing up engineers’ time from focusing on ‘business as usual’ to innovation.” Traditional IT took up too much of the engineers’ time monitoring systems and just keeping things running. Now with HPE SimpliVity, Bailey’s team can “give the business more and quicker” and “be more creative with how they use technology.”
Hyperconverged infrastructure has given Aston Martin Red Bull Racing the speed, scalability and agility they require without any need to turn to the cloud. It allows them to deliver more and more resources to trackside staff in an increasingly responsive manner. However, even with all these performance gains, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing has been able to reduce IT costs. So, the users are happy, the finance director is happy and the IT team are happy because their jobs are easier. Hyperconvergence is clearly the right choice for the unique challenges of Formula 1 racing.
Body-tracking tech moves to assembly line
Technology typically used by the world’s top sport stars to raise their game, or ensure their signature skills are accurately replicated in leading video games, is now being used on an auto assembly line.
Employees at Ford’s Valencia Engine Assembly Plant, in Spain, are using a special suit equipped with advanced body tracking technology. The pilot system, created by Ford and the Instituto Biomecánica de Valencia, has involved 70 employees in 21 work areas.
Player motion technology usually records how athletes sprint or turn, enabling sport coaches or game developers to unlock the potential of sport stars in the real world or on screen. Ford is using it to design less physically stressful workstations for enhanced manufacturing quality.
“It’s been proven on the sports field that with motion tracking technology, tiny adjustments to the way you move can have a huge benefit,” said Javier Gisbert, production area manager, Ford Valencia Engine Assembly Plant. “For our employees, changes made to work areas using similar technology can ultimately ensure that, even on a long day, they are able to work comfortably.”
Engineers took inspiration from a suit they saw at a trade fair that demonstrated how robots could replicate human movement and then applied it to their workplace, where production of the new Ford Transit Connect and 2.0-litre EcoBoost Duratec engines began this month.
The skin-tight suit consists of 15 tiny movement tracking light sensors connected to a wireless detection unit. The system tracks how the person moves at work, highlighting head, neck, shoulder and limb movements. Movement is recorded by four specialised motion-tracking cameras – similar to those usually paired with computer game consoles – placed near the worker and captured as a 3D skeletal character animation of the user.
Specially trained ergonomists then use the data to help employees align their posture correctly. Measurements captured by the system, such as an employee’s height or arm length, are used to design workstations, so they better fit employees.