Kia Motors has unveiled the Niro Plug-in Hybrid at the Geneva International Motor Show. The new derivative combines high versatility and crossover design appeal with maximum fuel efficiency from its advanced 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 an 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 per cent 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 8.9kWh lithium-polymer battery pack, growing in size from the 1.56kWh battery pack found in Kia’s hybrid crossover. The new battery pack is paired with a more powerful 44.5kW electric motor (offering almost 40 per cent more power, up from 32kW) 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 77kW and 147Nm torque. The total power and torque output for the Niro Plug-in Hybrid’s powertrain will be 104kW and 265Nm, enabling the new model to accelerate from 0-to-100 kph 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 55km. 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 gear 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 1300kg.
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.