Kia Eco Vehicles (clockwise from centre: New Optima Hybrid, Niro Hybrid - disguised, Optima Plug-In, Hybrid Soul EV)

Kia Eco Vehicles (clockwise from centre: New Optima Hybrid, Niro Hybrid - disguised, Optima Plug-In, Hybrid Soul EV)

Kia has set out a new strategy for green cars that it says will expand its green car line-up from four to 11 models by 2020. It is also aiming to improve average fuel efficiency by 25% over 2014 levels.

The brand's roadmap for low emission cars includes clean combustion, hybrid- and pure electric vehicles, and also hydrogen fuel cells. Some 70% of the current engine range will be replaced by more efficient units, Kia said.

It is anticipated that the five-year development plan will see Kia further increase its investment in research and development (R&D) into fuel-efficient technologies and new products, with a range of all-new models and highly advanced powertrains for global markets.

The new investment by Hyundai Motor Group, Kia's parent company, totals 11.3 trillion won (US$10.2 billion), for the development of a range of new eco-friendly models and building the facilities required for the brand's efforts to further reduce its CO2 output. The investment is likely to result in the creation of thousands of new jobs in domestic R&D positions, Kia says.

Ki-Sang Lee, Senior Vice President, Eco Friendly Vehicle R&D Centre, Kia Motors Corporation, highlighted the importance of electrification in the new strategy. "Global market demand is shifting to electric vehicles, with oil prices predicted to rise in future. The electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle market will grow rapidly in the coming years, and this investment will enable Kia to meet the growing demand with a range of advanced new products and technologies.

"We don't believe that there is any one 'silver bullet' that can satisfy the demand for low emission technology within the car industry, so we foresee a wide range of eco-friendly powertrains co-existing for an extended period of time," Lee said. "The plans we've announced today represent Kia's ambition to become a worldwide leader in advanced propulsion technology."

Kia's green car line-up to expand

By 2020, Kia's current green car line-up is expected to grow from four current models to 11. This expanded range of environmentally-friendly vehicles will encompass a wide range of advanced powertrains, from hybrids and plug-in hybrids to battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles.

The first models to be launched featuring new types of powertrains under the brand's 2020 vision for low emissions cars will be the Kia Optima PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), which will feature a high capacity lithium-polymer battery pack and electric motor, as well as an efficient six-speed automatic transmission, and the Niro hybrid utility vehicle (HUV), which will target CO2 emissions of 90 g/km (combined, based on the New European Driving Cycle).

Kia to introduce production hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in 2020

Also, as part of this five-year plan, Kia is targeting a 2020 launch for mass production of an all-new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, featuring "next-generation hydrogen fuel stack technology". Kia says it is working alongside 300 partner companies to develop the next-generation FCEV technology for global markets. Production of the new Kia FCEV is aimed to be around 1,000 units per year, a figure expected to rise as demand for fuel cell vehicles increases.

Kia's FCEV will feature a fuel stack similar in size to a 2.0-litre internal combustion engine, which development teams believe will offer drivers a high level of durability and power density from the advanced powertrain. Kia engineers are planning to develop the brand's next-generation fuel cell stack to be 5% more efficient and offer 10% greater stack performance, despite being around 15% lighter and 15% lower in volume, compared to current generation fuel cell stacks. The result is a targeted range of more than 800 km from a single fill-up and a top speed of around 170 kph.

The durability of the car's fuel cell stack and electric motor will be comprehensively assessed, with tests of existing fuel cell stacks from Hyundai Motor Group – Kia's parent company – covering over 200,000 km on the road. Modern production techniques, system components and electronic control technologies will help Kia to deliver a vehicle that features the high quality standards and levels of innovation that customers have come to expect from the brand.

Average fuel efficiency to increase by 25% by 2020

These plans, it is claimed, will help Kia in its aim to raise its average corporate fuel efficiency by 25% over 2014 levels by 2020. As well as investment in advanced propulsion technologies, Kia will also replace seven out of its 10 current engine ranges with next-generation gasoline and diesel units, while increasing the number of turbocharged engines. Higher-efficiency, multi-speed transmissions are also planned, while Kia engineers are targeting a 5% reduction in the average weight of new car bodies through greater application of ultra-high strength steel.

Advanced powertrain investment to create thousands of new jobs

The investment by Kia's parent company, Hyundai Motor Group, into the development of highly-advanced, highly-efficient powertrain technology as well as smart car technology is expected to create more than 7,300 new jobs, predominantly in R&D roles, over the next four years. Additional job creation is also expected through ongoing investments into the company's R&D and production facilities, with new overseas Kia production facilities also generating new jobs, directly and indirectly.

See also: Kia plans new hybrid utility vehicle