Kia wants to be a leader in the green car world in the next five years, and the global launch of the Optima Plug-in Hybrid (pictured above) is an early step in that $10.2 billion plan. The company also has tech updates ready for the Optima Hybrid. However, both new models essentially copy Hyundai's latest improvements for the Sonata Hybrid and PHEV.

According to a UK press release, the Optima PHEV will arrive in some global markets in the second half of 2016 with a 9.8-kWh lithium-polymer battery and a 67-horsepower electric motor – just like the 2016 Sonata PHEV. Kia will also aim for an EV range of 27 miles. There will be a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 154 horsepower and 140 pound-feet under the hood for a total system output of 202 hp, and power will get to the road through a six-speed automatic. The company will expect its Hyundai sibling's 99 US mpge fuel economy, too.

The PHEV will wear a few unique parts like a charging panel at the front of the driver's side, chrome side sills, and different wheels. Updated instruments will provide info about the electric powertrain, and a charge indicator on the dashboard that will let drivers check the status even when outside the sedan.

The updates for the Optima Hybrid will also generally follow the electrified Sonata with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 51-hp electric motor, and total output of 192 hp. It will go on sale in "the majority of Kia's global markets in the first half of 2016," according to the release. However, we don't yet know whether the US will be one of those regions. Autoblog asked Kia Motor America spokesperson James Hope about both of these vehicles, and he told us: "KMA has made no announcement regarding the Optima hybrid. We will have more to share at a later date."
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HYBRID FUTURE PLANNED FOR NEXT GENERATION KIA OPTIMA

New Optima range will include Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models

Optima PHEV to combine high-capacity batteries with 2.0-litre GDI engine, offering more electric range than any other PHEV saloon

Targeting 10% greater fuel economy for new Optima Hybrid

Kia aims to improve average fuel efficiency by 25% over 2014 by 2020

Kia Motors has today revealed details of a range of advanced new powertrains planned for the all-new Optima, as part of the company's ongoing commitment to broaden its global range of low-emission vehicles.

Innovative new hybrid powertrains will be a key feature of Kia's new D-segment saloon, which will offer both hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric power within the next 12 months.

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.

Optima PHEV to offer great electric range

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-litre '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 119MPGe combined (99 US mpge), while engineers are targeting 48 mpg combined (40 US mpg) in charge-sustaining mode. Once plugged in, the PHEV will recharge in less than three hours at a 240V Level 2 charging station, or nine hours from a standard 120V power outlet.

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 panel (LHD vehicles), 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).

Improved fuel economy and packaging for new Optima Hybrid

Following the popularity of the first-generation Optima Hybrid, the next-generation model will once again feature the increasingly popular hybrid powertrain, boasting a range of updates to boost fuel economy by 10% and improve the model's packaging.

At the heart of the new Optima Hybrid is a 156 ps 2.0-litre 'Nu' GDI engine, coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission. The upgraded transmission houses a 38 kW electric motor and clutch to replace the traditional torque converter, delivering the same responsive and engaging driving characteristics that Optima Hybrid owners would expect. The combined power output of the Optima Hybrid's upgraded powertrain is 195 ps at 6,000 rpm. The transmission also uses a new electric oil pump, contributing to the increase in fuel economy.

Backing up the engine, transmission and motor is an upgraded lithium-polymer battery pack, with a capacity of 1.62 kWh – an increase of 13%. The battery pack now fits underneath the boot floor, rather than infringing slightly on the luggage space available, resulting in a more practical loading area and enabling the use of 60/40 split-folding rear seats.

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 optimised engine bay cooling. A number of exterior elements – on the rear bumper, grille surround and wheel arches – feature chrome and a clean metallic blue finish, as well as special 'EcoHybrid' and 'EcoPlugin' badging.

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 aims to improve average fuel efficiency by 25% by 2020

A popular model for Kia worldwide, the next-generation Optima will contribute to the brand's ambition to becoming a leader in the low emission vehicle market by 2020. In the next five years, Kia will expand its current green car line-up from the four current models to 11, and is targeting a 25% improvement to average corporate fuel efficiency over 2014 levels.

This expanded range of low-emissions vehicles will encompass a wide range of advanced powertrains, from hybrids and plug-in hybrids to battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. The Kia Optima PHEV's high capacity lithium-polymer battery pack and transmission-mounted electric motor will be re-engineered for use across other Kia vehicles in future, while the brand is set to launch an all-new hybrid model in 2016.

As well as investment in advanced propulsion technologies, Kia will also replace seven out of its 10 current engine ranges with next-generation gasoline and diesel units, while increasing the number of turbocharged engines. Higher-efficiency, multi-speed transmissions are also planned, while Kia engineers are targeting a 5% reduction in the average weight of new car bodies through greater application of ultra-high strength steel.

Editor's note: All technical data contained in this press release are expected targets, pending further development and homologation. All figures are subject to change.

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