Kia pulls wraps off hybrid Optima


Kia Canada is getting into the hybrid game with the launch of the Optima Hybrid mid-sized sedan.

Debuting at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, Kia’s first-ever North American hybrid is slated to hit showrooms in 2011 and position the soaring automaker into another market segment.

“The introduction of the Optima Hybrid to the Canadian market in 2011 marks a significant milestone for Kia in our current design-led transformation through the enhancement of world-class technology” said Maria Soklis, Kia Canada COO.

“The hybrid offering also further entrenches our positioning as a responsible car company that will continue to provide Canadians with fuel efficient, world-class vehicles that are also premium in design”.
The 2011 Optima Hybrid uses a full parallel hybrid system and can be driven in zero emission mode, and/or in blended gas-electric mode. When the car comes to a stop and the electrical load is low, the engine shuts off to completely eliminate idle fuel consumption and emissions.

It runs on a lithium polymer battery, which was developed in South Korea with partner LG Chem. 

“The power and energy density of this new battery type allowed Kia engineers to create a lighter and more compact battery pack, with the 30 kilowatt battery pack weighing just 43.6 kilograms – 1.7 kilograms less than the 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s nickel metal hydride pack – which aids fuel economy and also helps to maximize Optima’s cargo space,” the automaker continued.

Unlike most current systems on the market, Kia says its Optima Hybrid powertrain is configured with a “unique architecture.” 

Compared to the power-split hybrid systems found on vehicles from Toyota or Ford, the Optima Hybrid uses a Transmission-Mounted-Electric-Drive (TMED) layout with the electric motor separated from the transmission gear-set. 

“Offering several advantages, this modular layout includes more efficient powertrain packaging, use of many “off-the-shelf” components such as the existing six-speed automatic transmission found on the 2.4-liter GDI Optima, and reduced engineering investment.  This also allows for other possible future combinations including the application of more powerful motors and higher capacity batteries.”

There is no word on price yet, but be sure to check out the next edition of Canadian AutoWorld for more coverage on Kia’s hybrid plans.