Kia Releases Full Details On 2016 Optima PHEV

NOV 18 2015 BY MARK KANE 19

2016 Kia Optima (ICE)

2016 Kia Optima (ICE)

Kia announced a five-year plan with the goal of being the leader in green cars (hybrid, plug-in hybrid, all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell) by 2020.

In total, the Korean company intends to launch 11 green models, but only some of them will be plug-ins.

Investment in developments of new models is estimated at over $10 billion.

“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.”

Ki-Sang Lee, Senior Vice President, Eco Friendly Vehicle R&D Center, Kia Motors Corporation, commented:

“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. The plans we’ve announced today represent Kia’s ambition to become a worldwide leader in advanced propulsion technology.”

Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid

Kia already offers the Soul EV all-electric car and in the second half of 2016 intends to introduce on the market an Optima plug-in hybrid, which currently appears in conventional versions and looks rather stunning.

The Kia Optima plug-in is basically akin/sister to the Hyundai Sonata PHEV, which was just priced at $34,600 in the US.  We expect the Optima to be priced similarly.

A new addition to the Kia model line-up, the Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) will be Kia’s first plug-in hybrid for global markets when it goes on sale in the second half of 2016, offering increased battery capacity and pure electric range. Meanwhile, the new Optima Hybrid (HEV) will offer buyers substantial improvements over the existing Optima Hybrid, with a larger battery pack, more powerful electric motor and revised transmission. These changes are expected to contribute to a 10% improvement in fuel economy over earlier versions of the Optima Hybrid.

The Optima HEV is expected to go on sale across the majority of Kia’s global markets in the first half of 2016. “

2016 Kia Optima (ICE)

2016 Kia Optima (ICE)

Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid pre-production prototypes look slightly different than the current 2016 Kia Optima (ICE):

Visual and aerodynamic upgrades separate hybrid models from the pack

“The Optima PHEV and HEV will offer their own distinct styling features to differentiate them from other models in the all-new Optima range. While the new Hybrid models boast the same modern styling which has proved so popular with buyers around the world, they each receive an active grille, engineered to balance improved aerodynamics with optimized engine bay cooling. A number of exterior elements – on the rear bumper, grille surround and wheel arches – feature silver brightwork and a clean metallic blue finish, as well as special ‘EcoHybrid’ and ‘EcoPlugin’ badging.”

Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)

Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)

“High-class cabin, improved refinement and new technologies for all-new Optima

Beyond specific upgrades to the exterior and interior, both the all-new Optima PHEV and Optima HEV will continue to offer the same modern exterior styling, and a bold interior design with more space for all occupants.

Combined with an array of new technologies, and retaining the sporty image that has helped the Optima become one of Kia’s best-selling models worldwide, the all-new Optima range offers greater refinement, improved ride and handling and higher quality over the outgoing model.”

Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)

Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)

Optima PHEV specs:

  • 9.8 kWh lithium-polymer battery pack (same capacity like in sister) Hyundai Sonata PHEV, which got 27 miles of EPA range
  • expected 27 miles of all-electric range
  • Peak electric motor output is also the same 50 kW (transmission-mounted 50 kW electric motor, which replaces the traditional torque converter in non-hybrid Optima models)
  • 2.0-liter ‘Nu’ four-cylinder GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine – 156 hp and 189 Nm and smooth-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox
  • system output 205 hp

“The next-generation Optima PHEV will feature a 9.8 kWh lithium-polymer battery back – roughly six times the energy output of that found in the current-generation Optima Hybrid. Paired with a 50 kW electric motor – itself 42% more powerful than in the previous Optima hybrid version – the combination allows the Optima PHEV to operate in pure-electric mode at higher speeds. Engineering teams working on the Kia Optima PHEV are expecting the car to go on sale with the ability to travel up to 27 miles on electric power alone, placing the Optima PHEV among the leaders in the D-segment for pure-electric range.

The innovative powertrain employs Kia’s efficient 2.0-liter ‘Nu’ four-cylinder GDI (gasoline direct injection) engine at its core, expected to generate 156 ps and 189 Nm. The engine is coupled with the electric motor, which allows the car to operate in charge-sustaining mode (just like the current Optima Hybrid) once the battery runs out of charge. The powertrain’s total power output is 205 ps at 6,000 rpm, with the application of the electric motor facilitating an immediate engine response to throttle inputs.

This power will be applied to the road through a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox and the transmission-mounted 50 kW electric motor, which replaces the traditional torque converter in non-hybrid Optima models. The Optima PHEV will offer a seamless blend of highly-efficient electric and internal combustion power, and a consistently high level of performance.

Based on internal tests carried out to date, the Optima PHEV is expected to deliver 99 MPGe combined (US), while engineers are targeting 40 mpg combined in charge-sustaining mode. Once plugged in, the PHEV will recharge in less than three hours at a 240V Level 2 charging station.

To ensure the PHEV will stand out among the Optima range, the car boasts a series of visual modifications. These include a charging port integrated into the driver-side front fender, chrome side sill moldings, new wheel designs and ‘EcoPlug-In’ badging. In the cabin, the PHEV model is equipped with a distinctive instrument cluster, which displays information about the car’s functions and powertrain status, while a charge indicator on top of the dash allows drivers to easily see the state of charge from outside the vehicle (for instance, while it charges outside a home).”

Hydrogen fuel cell Kia

Kia said that hydrogen fuel cell cars also are included in the new five-year plan.

As in case of many other carmakers, Kia aims for “mass market FCVs” with small numbers of initial production at 1,000 a year. Kia, like Hyundai, Toyota and Honda, hopes that those numbers will grow in the future:

“Fuel cell vehicle. 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 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-liter 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 (497 miles) from a single fill-up and a top speed of around 170 km/h (106 mph).

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 covering more than 200,000 km (124,000 miles) on the road.

Kia’s research into fuel cells date back to 1998, which resulted in the creation of the limited production Kia Mohave FCEV, able to travel up to 690 km on a single fill-up.”

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19 Comments on "Kia Releases Full Details On 2016 Optima PHEV"

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Nice work by Hyundai/Kia! 27 miles is far above the competition (Ford, not to mention Audi), and slightly *more* than the average round-trip commute across main US metro regions. For a “light” PHEV (not an EREV like the Volt), that’s a good range to have.

Good price point too. Overall, this can be a great “safe” entry into plug-in world for many mainstream drivers. Hope they succeed.


Volt is not an EREV. We’ve talked about this many times before. The i3 is an EREV.


Semantics. Both cars drive fully-electric until they run out of battery power, then are propelled by petroleum. The i3 REx is just much more inefficient about it; even though it produces less power and is substantially lighter, it somehow still manages to get worse gas mileage.


“Volt is not an EREV. We’ve talked about this many times before. The i3 is an EREV.”

LOL. “We” as in some internet biased commenter with no engineering credential or background.

The only “official” EREV definition is the one submitted by GM engineers to SAE.

All the “internet” definition are bunch of stuff made up by biased EV supporters in 1 way or another.

Volt fits the EREV definition becasue of the “EV mode”, not because of its REx mode.

Serial or parallel in the REx mode is not part of the requirement to define EREV as many of internet posters have INCORRECTLY ASSERTED REPEATLY.

There’s no absolute black and white technical difference between the Volt and other series-parallel plugin hybrids that can be described with any one word or acronym. You can say Volt is more electrically dominant, you can say it’s got longer range, you can say EV mode has better performance…. but the Volt isn’t a series hybrid- under certain circumstances, torque from the gas engine can apply its torque to the drive wheels, just like every other series-parallel hybrid on the road. Descriptions like “EREV” and “it’s an EV with a range extender” are used by Volt fanboys all the time to imply it’s a series hybrid (some even call it that outright and are completely wrong), but it’s all meaningless GM marketing Kool-Aid. When it’s regurgitated here, it gets flamed pretty quickly. The way I look at it, Volt is more like a Plug-in Prius than it is a pure EV or even a series hybrid like the BMW i3 REx. The only true mass-produced pure series hybrid on the market right now (that I can think of) is the BMW i3 REx. It is the car that the Volt promised to be but wasn’t. Symbolically and technically, BMW managed… Read more »

“Descriptions like “EREV” and “it’s an EV with a range extender” are used by Volt fanboys all the time to imply it’s a series hybrid (some even call it that outright and are completely wrong), but it’s all meaningless GM marketing Kool-Aid. When it’s regurgitated here, it gets flamed pretty quickly.”

Nobody defines EREV as series hybrid except for the few “idiots” on the internet who likes to complains about the Volt.

The last time I looked, GM actually submitted an official SAE paper to describe what EREV is. Have you? No. So, get over it.

EREV is defined by its EV mode, not by how its REx behaves which you have completely missed.

BMW i3 REx is classified as BEVx by CARB.


BMW i3 REx. It is the car that the Volt promised to be but wasn’t. Symbolically and technically, BMW managed to detach gas dependency from its car in a way that GM did not. ”


So, you would rather GM to design something like the i3 REx so its REx range can be LESS EFFICIENT? For what? To make BEV purist like you happy?

To trade efficiency for “some articial incorrect understood label” is the dumbest an engineer can do. And apparently, you aren’t engineer.


I don’t get why they need a rebadged version of the Hyundai in the first place… With GM & Ford, it happened because of a long previous history of customers being loyal to the different brandswhich had been separate companies. Nothing like that with Kia/Hyundai, AFAIK. I had expected that they would split efforts, with Kia as the smaller company doing BEVs only (which I expect to sell less than PHEVs for the next 3-5 years until range catches up), and Hyundai PHEVs only.


“Nothing like that with Kia/Hyundai, AFAIK.”

Because you don’t live in Korea, or in other countries with longer exposure to Korean cars.

Besides, multi-badging and multi-branding seems to be how corporations operate. Esp. when there are historical roots for doing it. Nothing special here.


Beg to differ.
I live in Israel, which has a much more significant history with Korean cars than the US. Hyundai has been the #1 car vendor here for the past 4 years, and has been in the top 3 since 2003. Kia is currently #3 (together they’re ~25% of the market), and has been the top 5 the last 4 years…

I don’t know when you left, but some things have changed (-:

Anyway, AFAIK, as strong as they are in Korea, the vast majority of both brands’ cars is exported — if they need a rebadged version for Korea, they can surely do it just there?

“Besides, multi-badging and multi-branding seems to be how corporations operate.”
Sure, but it costs the corp. a lot of extra money for marketing and overhead costs…
It makes sense for luxury brand, where you’re paying for the nameplate, but AFAICT most of Hyundai/Kia buyers in the west buy them as value brands, not for image reasons.

So, yes, stupid companies do it — look where it got GM…


Kia and Hyundai are not the same company. They are separate companies.

Saying they shouldn’t have their own cars, is like saying that Toyota and Subaru shouldn’t have their own versions of the Scion FR-S /Subaru BRZ. (Keep in mind that Toyota owns a large amount of Subaru shares, just like Hyundai owns a large amount of Kia shares.)

This is a jointly developed car. Each company makes their own profits off of their own sales, for their own shareholders.

Bill Howland

$10.2 Billion?

You mean they can’t do as good as the 2011 CHevy Volt after spending that kind of money?

Why not license Generation 1 Battery and Planetary gearbox setups from GM? Hey it works for Caddy in the 2016 ELR!

They’d get to market much faster and wouldn’t have much development work to do. Heck, if they licensed the voltec and put it in one of their many small to medium sized SUV’s, they’d sell a ton of ’em.

Sounds like a Win-Win-Win to me, GM makes royaties, Kia/Hyundai is more ‘green’, and the customers who have been pleading for a Voltec based FAMILY SIZED vehicle get their wish – in a huge vehicle the thing has enough performance to just require a second battery, a la doing a shoe horn as they are doing on the GM Caddy XT6 EV Option.


I had to chuckle at this, because the entire time I read the article, I thought “Huh, I should just get a Volt already.”

Why wouldn’t you buy a Volt over this contraption unless you just hated GM?


The reason to consider this over the Volt is the extra space. My wife thinks we need a little more room than the Volt has so we’re considering the Sonata or Optima. Since I already have a ’14 Volt I’m not completely happy about having to take a step down. Wouldn’t it be nice if GM announced a high capacity Malibu at the 2016 Detroit Auto show? They just need to throw in a bigger battery.


Licensing the technology only works if you intend the product to be a stopgap compliance car.

Sooner or later, Kia/Hyundai will need to be able to field competitive EVs, and so the R&D needs to take place. Might as well take their lumps now while the tax credits still exist.


I meant to add: “a stopgap compliance car (e.g. Toyota & Tesla).”


How is the trunk size?

Any pictures?


I’m assuming no split/fold rear seats for the PHEV version, just like the Hyundai PHEV?


If Kia Releases the Full Details On 2016 Optima PHEV. What is the acceleration than?