Kia's sees green tech as future

2012-09-06 11:51

Fuel experts believe that global oil production has reached a plateau and although new reserves are being discovered they will become more difficult and expensive to tap.

Fuel prices will continue to rise - note SA's almost R1/litre rise this week - with global demand and in many countries local environmental taxes, such as our own CO2 tax, are further increasing the cost of travel.

Korean automaker Kia has been developing alternative-fuel powertrains such as hybrids, battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells for more than 25 years.


Kia produced its first electric vehicle, based on the Vesta van, more than 25 years ago, at a time when the company had been in the automotive market for only 20 years. The automaker's first electric car, a battery Sportage, was launched in 1999 and since then Kia has released a number of EV concepts such as its Venga, Pop and Naimo.

In 2011 Kia began production of its electric Ray EV which can be built on the same production line as the petrol-engined version. The Ray EV has a range of 140km and can be recharged in 25 minutes at a fast-charge point, or in six hours through a house socket.

Electric vehicles are best suited for short journeys in areas where their limited range is not an issue and recharging infrastructure is most likely to be found.

In Korea an unusual hybrid system running on a mixture of liquefied petroleum gas and battery power is available in the Forte sedan, a car similar in size to the Cee’d. Powered by a 1.6 engine converted to run on LPG and combined with a 15kW electric motor, it has CO2 emissions of only 94g/km.

Kia is also planning an LPG hybrid version of its Picanto.       


Kia's long-term plan is the development of fuel-cell vehicles (FCEV) which combines hydrogen and oxygen in a complex metal box called a fuel stack to create electricity on the go. Water vapour is the only waste.

Kia developed its first FCEV in 2003, based on the Sportage, and is close to production as it stages trials with the Borrego, a large SUV. The latter can cover more than 640km/h on a tank of hydrogen and manages the equivalent of 3.3 litres/100km.

Seven major auto-makers have agreed to begin building fuel-cell vehicles by 2015 but a hydrogen refuelling infrastructure will be needed to support FCEV vehicles.