Kia is raising its mild-hybrid game and reducing average CO2 emissions in Europe with new engines designed in Korea and built in Slovakia

Kia is raising its mild-hybrid game and reducing average CO2 emissions in Europe with new engines designed in Korea and built in Slovakia

Kia is upgrading its European production capabilities with new investment in powertrain products and manufacturing lines.

Kia Motors Europe said it has completed a range of upgrades to its European vehicle and engine production plant in Žilina, Slovakia. The modifications are the result of an EUR70 million investment made by Kia this year, gearing up the plant to produce the company's new 'Smartstream' internal combustion and hybrid powertrains.

The investment in Žilina allows the plant to produce and assemble new petrol engines in response to changing market demands, Kia says. Kia will now build small-capacity, high-efficiency, hybrid-compatible petrol engines on three engine production lines, with the fourth dedicated to the brand's  'Smartstream' 1.6-litre diesel engine.

This investment, Kia says, is a proactive move by Kia towards hybridisation and electrification, in line with the wider European market trend.

The investment also enables the production of Kia's latest 'Smartstream' powertrains, based on new 1.5-litre 'Kappa' and 1.6-litre 'Gamma' T-GDi (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct injection) engines. These new four-cylinder petrol engines will underpin the company's hybridisation and emissions reduction strategies in Europe. Both new engines are designed to integrate with Kia's 'EcoDynamics+' 48V mild-hybrid system. In addition, the 'Gamma' 1.6-litre T-GDi is designed to integrate with hybrid powertrain technologies as the brand explores a wider range of powertrain options for the future.

"Continued investment in our Slovakia plant will help us to meet the changing demands of European drivers," said Emilio Herrera, Chief Operating Officer at Kia Motors Europe. "We have already seen a marked increase in demand for electrified petrol vehicles. This investment in advanced powertrain production unlocks our ability to bring electrification to a wider customer base."

"At present, more than a quarter of the cars Kia sells in Europe are electrified in some form – a number that will only grow in the years ahead," added Herrera. "Our new engines allow for even greater efficiency and a quicker transition into the 'electrified era' thanks to their ease of integration with hybrid systems. We are proud to be able to manufacture Kia's latest powertrain technologies here in Europe, for European customers."

The assembly line for the new 1.5-litre T-GDi engine runs alongside a newly converted production line for the 1.6-litre T-GDi engine. Žilina is also home to production of Kia's 1.6-litre 'Smartstream' diesel engine and 48V diesel mild-hybrid powertrains, currently found in the Kia Ceed model family and Kia Sportage.

The new engines have been designed and engineered in-house at Kia's global R&D headquarters in Namyang, Korea. Powertrain development teams have improved engine responses, combustion efficiency, and access to torque outputs across a wide range of the most commonly used engine speeds. Incorporating Kia's hybrid powertrain technology was also key to the development of both engines.

The new 1.5-litre T-GDi engine replaces Kia's current 1.4-litre T-GDi, and will be deployed in various production Kia models in future. Producing 160 ps, the new 'Kappa' engine is not only 14 per cent more powerful than its 140 ps predecessor; it also produces 4.5 per cent more torque (253 Nm), and is up to seven per cent more efficient.

The new 'Gamma' engine is a development of Kia's existing 1.6-litre T-GDi engine. This adopts the company's latest 'Smartstream' technologies to lower fuel consumption by up to eight per cent compared to its predecessor, it is claimed. Meanwhile, its power output rises from 177 ps to 180 ps; torque output remains at 265 Nm.

Both new engines feature Kia's latest 'Smartstream' powertrain innovations, designed to reduce emissions and aid on-road performance. These innovations include the brand's Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) technology and a low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation (LP-EGR) system to improve fuel efficiency and emissions.

CVVD controls the duration that the engine's valves open and close, according to changing driving conditions, improving performance and fuel efficiency while simultaneously reducing emissions. The LP-EGR system is active at lower engine speeds reducing premature combustion or 'knocking' in the engine, and also increasing fuel efficiency. The combination of CVVD and LP-EGR in tandem creates a significant improvement in fuel efficiency.

The engines also feature higher pressure injectors and Gasoline Particulate Filters (GPF) for reduced particulate emissions. As well as reducing emissions, the new technologies also improve the usability of the engines, with more power and torque available at lower engine speeds.

Kia says it will reveal further plans for the roll-out of its new engines in due course, including internal combustion engine mild-hybrid, hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. The homologation process for emissions and fuel efficiency will also be revealed in line with announcements relating to specific model lines.