Special Coverage

Chicago Auto Show

Kia Motors America says its Ray “futuristic 4-seat compact sedan” concept, debuting at the 2010 Chicago auto show this week, represents what a Kia plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle would look like, but gives no indication of an imminent production plan for the car.

Based on Kia’s compact Forte platform and incorporating a solar roof, the Ray can travel 50 miles (80 km) per charge on electric power. It has a fuel-economy rating of 202 mpg (1.2 L/100 km) in plug-in HEV mode, Kia says.

The sedan is powered by a 153-hp, 1.4L direct-injected gas engine and a 78-kW (105-hp) electric motor, combined with a permanently-engaged fixed-ratio continuously variable transmission. A lithium-polymer battery stores electricity.

The gas engine and electric motor can jointly or independently feed power to the Ray’s front wheels.

Like the solar roof of the ’10 Toyota Prius, Kia says the Ray’s hexagonal solar cells provide a “trickle charge” for an interior cooling fan that operates while the car is parked, lessening the need for air conditioning when occupants return.

The Ray is the fifth vehicle to be unveiled in the past year designed by Kia’s Irvine, CA, Design Center America studio, following the Soul, Forte, Forte Koup and Sorento.

Kia Motors Corp. Chief Designer Peter Schreyer says the 4-seater’s coupe-like styling is aimed at “people (who) want to reduce their carbon footprint without driving carbon copies.” The Ray matches the Toyota Prius’ 0.25 coefficient of drag.

Kia designers incorporated “clean, flush surfaces minimizing any unneeded edge” on the Ray. A strong shoulder line and higher deck lid reduce drag, as does a 1-piece, “smooth-as-glass” underbody panel.

A display notifying of battery-charge levels is mounted on the hood and illuminated.

Motion-detector cameras are used in lieu of side-view mirrors and door handles.

Inside, Kia employs eco-friendly materials in cool white tones to “offer a sense of purity” as well as reflect the sun’s rays.

The 100% “earthy mocha wool felt” flooring is sustainable, and a new GreenEdge Infinity audio system uses power-sipping loudspeakers.

“The amplifier used also reduces the idle power consumption by 50% of current Infinity speakers and employs a lower dissipation design for significant savings in overall weight,” Kia says.

Meanwhile, the Ray’s front and rear seats float via side-sill mounts and are comprised of hollowed out, lightweight “elastometric” materials.

Reducing weight in the interior was prioritized via mesh fabric in door inserts and seats.

A hexagon/honeycomb shape is present throughout the interior and exterior, including on the Ray’s 20-in. narrow, low-rolling resistance tires.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com