First came Kia Motors New Zealand’s launch of the Niro Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models in March, and now the company reports strong interest in the all-electric Niro EV recently unveiled in Korea.
A 10% reduction in weight would help boost fuel economy by 3.2% and cut emissions by the same amount, says Kia. The vehicles will also become 1.6 times more durable, as key parts do not wear out so quickly, reducing wastage as well as saving money for owners.
Also, acceleration improves by 8.5% and there is a 19% increase in steering wheel manoeuvrability.
“Weight reduction in a car has benefits: savings in production costs, reduced fuel consumption and emissions, improved safety and durability, ” says Todd McDonald, general manager of Kia Motors New Zealand. “The next generation of Kia cars will be even lighter and more sustainable.”
Kia is researching ways to cut weight in production vehicles, including the replacement of steel with aluminum, resins and other lightweight materials – such as using adhesives instead of welding. Research is focused on decreasing the thickness and weight of the materials while maintaining performance and durability. Cutting the number of parts through adoption of modules will also help reduce weight.
In the Kia Optima sedan, which went on sale in New Zealand last year, the heating, ventilating and air conditioning unit was the first in Korea to be made of a high-strength plastic featuring ‘glass bubbles’.
Using this system, Kia saves 10% in weight compared to conventional HVAC units made with polypropylene.
The Optima’s centre pillar is made of ultra-high strength steel produced by hot stamping, a method of reinforcing a given material by pressing it at a high temperature and then quickly cooling it. Using this type of steel in the Optima has reduced the number of parts and overall weight of the car, while making the body shell stronger and more durable.
Kia has also found ways to reduce weight in the mass of electrical wiring in its cars. Wiring looms in the newest Kia vehicles are less complex and they employ intelligent, electronic modules to ensure no loss of effectiveness.
One major way to reduce weight is to replace larger and heavier engines with smaller, more efficient power plants. One example is the recently introduced Kia Rio, which now has a 1.4L petrol engine in place of the previous 1.6L unit, yet the performance of the car has not suffered.
Both the Kia Optima and the Kia Sorento were previously powered by V6 engines, but the latest models have moved to four-cylinders – more efficient and fuel economic.