Kia shows a plug-in hybrid in Chicago

  • 23-Feb-2010 06:51 EST
Ray rear.jpg
Aerodynamic cues, including a portion of the rear end that extends from the vehicle at highway speeds, highlight the Kia Ray concept, the latest vehicle from Kia Design Center America.

Traditional exterior elements such as door handles and side mirrors are missing on Kia's Ray plug-in hybrid concept that emphasizes its aerodynamic profile as much as its eco-leanings.

"The surface data that represents this vehicle has been tested in the wind tunnel in Korea," Thomas Kearns, Chief Designer at Kia Design Center America, said at the car's 2010 Chicago Auto Show unveiling. According to Kearns, the concept's shape was reported to be 0.25 Cd. "When you have collaboration between design and engineering, that's the sort of thing that can be done," Kearns said.

In addition to bypassing exterior door handles and sideview mirrors, Ray's aerodynamic attributes include the rear end—specifically the last two inches of the trailing edge of the decklid and the quarter panel—that elongates at higher speeds and an integrated underbody panel. "The rocker panel is the belly pan, so it's almost like one complete shape. It flushes out the whole underside of the vehicle and it kind of comes up on the sides and is exposed a bit on the sides, the front, and the rear," explained Kearns.

From the front view, Kia Ray lacks a traditional grille opening. "Since it's a plug-in hybrid, most of the time it will be battery-powered so we don't need a huge opening for a big radiator to cool a big engine," said Kearns.

Ray's interior creates a floating visual effect via the design of the console as well as the front and rear seats mounting to the side sills. "In reality and in perception, the cabin looks airy and spacious," Kearns said.

The plug-in hybrid concept spotlights an all-aluminum, gasoline direct-injected 1.4-L engine coupled with a 78-kW electric motor and a continuously variable transmission. Vehicle range is projected at 746 mi (1200 km).

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