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by Tim Beissmann

Next-generation Kia models will be available with an innovative hybrid system that integrates an electric supercharger to deliver a low-down performance kick in addition to heightened fuel efficiency.

Kia’s engineers are targeting reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of up to 15 per cent from the new mild hybrid system compared with conventional powertrains in its existing production cars, as well as a 15-20 per cent power boost from the electric supercharger.

Local customers will be forced to wait for the technology, however, with Kia Australia public relations general manager Kevin Hepworth revealing the system has only been developed for left-hand drive, and adding that he was not aware of any plans for it to be adapted for right-hand-drive applications at this stage.

The hybrid system comprises a 48-volt lead-carbon battery, a small electric motor and the electric supercharger, and is compatible with petrol and diesel engines. Kia says it favoured lead-carbon batteries over lithium-ion units as they operate more efficiently in sub-zero temperatures, are easier to recycle and require no active cooling. The battery is recharged using brake-energy regeneration technology.

The electric supercharger uses energy from the battery to increase the drivetrain’s power and torque outputs at low engine speeds. Kia’s engineers envisage the supercharger supporting a larger, conventional turbocharger, with the latter taking over as engine speeds rise to provide extra power and torque. Smaller models will offer a simpler version of the hybrid system without the supercharger.

The new system will allow future Kia production vehicles to be driven in pure-electric mode at low speeds and when cruising.

A stop-start system that uses a belt-driven starter generator instead of a conventional alternator facilitates additional zero-emission operation and promises refined NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) levels upon restart.

The South Korean manufacturer says its new mild hybrid system will be available in petrol- and diesel-powered passenger vehicles in the near future.