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Kia Motors Europe has completed a range of upgrades to its European vehicle and engine production plant in Žilina, Slovakia.

The modifications are the result of a €70 million investment made by Kia this year, gearing up the plant to produce the company’s new ‘Smartstream' internal combustion and hybrid powertrains.

The investment in Žilina allows the plant to produce and assemble new gasoline engines in response to changing market demands. Kia will now build small-capacity, high-efficiency, hybrid-compatible gasoline engines on three engine production lines, with the fourth dedicated to the brand’s latest ‘Smartstream’ 1.6-litre diesel engine. This is a proactive move by Kia towards hybridisation and electrification, in line with the wider European market trend.

The investment also enables the production of Kia’s latest ‘Smartstream’ powertrains, based on new 1.5-litre ‘Kappa’ and 1.6-litre ‘Gamma’ T-GDi (turbocharged gasoline direct injection) engines. These new four-cylinder gasoline engines will underpin the company’s hybridisation and emissions reduction strategies in Europe. Both new engines are designed to integrate with Kia’s ‘EcoDynamics+’ 48V mild-hybrid system. In addition, the ‘Gamma’ 1.6-litre T-GDi is designed to integrate with hybrid powertrain technologies as the brand explores a wider range of powertrain options for the future.

“Continued investment in our Slovakia plant will help us to meet the changing demands of European drivers,” comments Emilio Herrera, Chief Operating Officer at Kia Motors Europe. “We have already seen a marked increase in demand for electrified gasoline vehicles. This investment in advanced powertrain production unlocks our ability to bring electrification to a wider customer base.”

“At present, more than a quarter of the cars Kia sells in Europe are electrified in some form – a number that will only grow in the years ahead,” adds Herrera. “Our new engines allow for even greater efficiency and a quicker transition into the ‘electrified era’ thanks to their ease of integration with hybrid systems. We are proud to be able to manufacture Kia’s latest powertrain technologies here in Europe, for European customers.”

Kia’s investment in Žilina means the production facility is now a global leader in the production of HEV powertrains. The assembly line for the new 1.5-litre T-GDi engine runs alongside a newly converted production line for the 1.6-litre T-GDi engine. Žilina is also home to production of Kia’s 1.6-litre ‘Smartstream’ diesel engine and 48V diesel mild-hybrid powertrains, currently found in the Kia Ceed model family and Kia Sportage.

Hybrid expertise – designed in Korea, built in Europe

The new engines have been designed and engineered in-house at Kia’s global R&D headquarters in Namyang, Korea. Powertrain development teams have improved engine responses, combustion efficiency, and access to torque outputs across a wide range of the most commonly used engine speeds. Incorporating Kia’s hybrid powertrain technology was also key to the development of both engines.

These engines form part of Kia’s broader strategy to develop a wide range of propulsion technologies – including hybrid, electric and internal combustion powertrains – that meet the needs of a diverse range of drivers.

More power and lower emissions thanks to new ‘Smartstream’ technologies

The new 1.5-litre T-GDi engine replaces Kia’s current 1.4-litre T-GDi, and will be deployed in various production Kia models in future. The engine is also shipped to Nošovice in the Czech Republic, for use in the Hyundai i30. Producing 160 ps, the new ‘Kappa’ engine is not only 14% more powerful than its 140 ps predecessor; it also produces 4.5% more torque (253 Nm), and is up to seven percent more efficient.

The new ‘Gamma’ engine is a development of Kia’s existing 1.6-litre T-GDi engine. This adopts the company’s latest ‘Smartstream’ technologies to lower fuel consumption by up to eight percent compared to its predecessor. Meanwhile, its power output rises from 177 ps to 180 ps; torque output remains at 265 Nm.

Both new engines feature Kia’s latest ‘Smartstream’ powertrain innovations, designed to seamlessly reduce emissions and aid on-road performance. These innovations include the brand’s Continuously Variable Valve Duration (CVVD) technology and a low-pressure exhaust gas recirculation (LP-EGR) system to improve fuel efficiency and emissions.

CVVD controls the duration that the engine’s valves open and close, according to changing driving conditions, improving performance and fuel efficiency while simultaneously reducing emissions. The LP-EGR system is active at lower engine speeds reducing premature combustion or ‘knocking’ in the engine, and also increasing fuel efficiency. The combination of CVVD and LP-EGR in tandem creates a significant improvement in fuel efficiency.

The engines also feature higher pressure injectors and gasoline particulate filters (GPF) for reduced particulate emissions. As well as reducing emissions, the new technologies also improve the usability of the engines, with more power and torque available at lower engine speeds.

Model announcements and on-sale date

Kia will reveal further plans for the roll-out of its new engines before the end of 2020, including internal combustion engine mild-hybrid, hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. The homologation process for emissions and fuel efficiency will also be revealed in line with announcements relating to specific model lines.
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