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.
Two-thirds of adults ready for cars that drive themselves
The latest Looking Further with Ford Trends Report reveals that behaviour is changing across key areas of our lives
Self-driving cars are a hot topic today, but if you had to choose, would you rather your children ride in an autonomous vehicle or drive with a stranger? You may be surprised to learn that 67 per cent of adults globally would opt for the self-driving car.
That insight is one of many revealed in the 2019 Looking Further with Ford Trend Report, released last week. The report takes a deep look into the drivers of behavioural change, specifically uncovering the dynamic relationships consumers have with the shifting landscape of technology.
Change is not always easy, particularly when it is driven by forces beyond our control. In a global survey of 14 countries, Ford’s research revealed that 87 per cent of adults believe technology is the biggest driver of change. And while 79 per cent of adults maintain that technology is a force for good, there are large segments of the population that have significant concerns. Some are afraid of artificial intelligence (AI). Others fear the impact of technology on our emotional wellbeing.
“Individually and collectively, these behavioural changes can take us from feeling helpless to feeling empowered, and unleash a world of wonder, hope and progress,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “At Ford we are deeply focused on human-centric design and are committed to finding mobility solutions that help improve the lives of consumers and their communities. In the context of change, we have to protect what we consider most valuable – having a trusted relationship with our customers. So, we are always deliberate and thoughtful about how we navigate change.”
Key insights from Ford’s 7th annual Trends Report:
Almost half of people around the world believe that fear drives change
Seven in 10 say that they are energised by change
87 per cent agree that technology is the biggest driver of today’s change
Eight in 10 citizens believe that technology is a force for good
45 per cent of adults globally report that they envy people who can disconnect from their devices
Seven out of 10 consumers agree that we should have a mandatory time-out from our devices
Click here to read more about the seven trends for 2019.
At last, cars talk to traffic lights to catch ‘green wave’
By ANDRE HAINZLMAIER, head of development of apps, connected services and smart city at Audi.
Stop-and-go traffic in cities is annoying. By contrast, we are pleased when we have a “green wave” – but we catch them far too seldom, unfortunately. With the Traffic Light Information function, drivers are more in control. They drive more efficiently and are more relaxed because they know 250 meters ahead of a traffic light whether they will catch it on green. In the future, anonymized data from our cars can help to switch traffic lights in cities to better phases and to optimise the traffic flow.
In the USA, Audi customers have been using the “Time-to-Green” function for two years: if the driver will reach the lights on red, a countdown in the Audi virtual cockpit or head-up display counts the seconds to the next green phase. This service is now available at more than 5,000 intersections in the USA, for example in cities like Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland and Washington D.C. In the US capital alone, about 1,000 intersections are linked to the Traffic Light Information function.
Since February, Audi has offered a further function in North America. The purpose of this is especially to enable driving on the “green wave”. “Green Light Optimized Speed Advisory” (GLOSA) shows to the driver in the ideal speed for reaching the next traffic light on green.
Both Time-to-Green and GLOSA will be activated for the start of operation in Ingolstadt in selected Audi models. These include all Audi e-tron models and the A4, A6, A7, A8, Q3, Q7 and Q8 to be produced from mid-July (“model year 2020”). The prerequisite is the “Audi connect Navigation & Infotainment” package and the optional “camera-based traffic sign recognition”.
Why is this function becoming available in Europe two years later than in the USA?
The challenges for the serial introduction of the service are much greater here than, for example, in the USA, where urban traffic light systems were planned over a large area and uniformly. In Europe, by contrast, the traffic infrastructure has developed more locally and decentrally – with a great variety of traffic technology. How quickly other cities are connected to this technology depends above all on whether data standards and interfaces get established and cities digitalise their traffic lights.
On this project, Audi is working with Traffic Technology Services (TTS). TTS prepares the raw data from city traffic management centres and transmits them to the Audi servers. From here, the information reaches the car via a fast Internet connection.
Audi is working to offer Traffic Light Information in further cities in Germany, Europe, Canada and the USA in the coming years. In the large east Chinese city of Wuxi, Audi and partners are testing networks between cars and traffic light systems in the context of a development project.
In future, Audi customers may be able to benefit from additional functions, for example when “green waves” are incorporated into the ideal route planning. It is also conceivable that Audi e-tron models, when cruising up to a red traffic light, will make increased used of braking energy in order to charge their batteries. Coupled with predictive adaptive cruise control (pACC), the cars could even brake automatically at red lights.
In the long term, urban traffic will benefit. When cars send anonymised data to the city, for example, traffic signals could operate more flexibly. Every driver knows the following situation: in the evening you wait at a red light – while no other car is to be seen far and wide. Networked traffic lights would then react according to demand. Drivers of other automotive brands will also profit from the development work that Audi is carrying out with Traffic Light Information – good news for cities, which are dependent on the anonymised data of large fleets to achieve the most efficient traffic management.
In future, V2I technologies like Traffic Light Information will facilitate automated driving.
A city is one of the most complex environments for an autonomous car. Nevertheless, the vehicle has to be able to handle the situation, even in rain and snow. Data exchange with the traffic infrastructure can be highly relevant here.