Green automakers vie for attention in LA

Korean automaker Kia launched its new hybrid at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 17, jumping into an increasingly competitive market for fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Kia Optima Hybrid is the company's first hybrid developed for the US market and will be available in showrooms early next year, although pricing is still unconfirmed.

Kia says that the new hybrid can manage 40 mpg 5.88 l/100km), offering an all-electric top speed of 62 miles per hour (100 km/h) using a 40.2 horsepower electric motor, which is coupled with a gas engine to produce a total of 206.2 horsepower in hybrid mode.

With the new Optima Hybrid weighing in at 3,490 pounds (1,583 kg), Kia is keen to stress that much of the weight reductions are from its new battery which it says weighs 28 pounds (13 kg) less than the pack used in the Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Developed in partnership with LG Chem, the new battery uses lithium polymer technology, instead of the nickel metal hydride used in the Toyota hybrids or the lithium ion batteries used in the Nissan Leaf.

Like competing hybrids, the Optima also boasts regenerative braking and stop-start technology to shut off the engine when the vehicle isn't in motion.

Although Kia's 40 mpg claim makes it a clear contender in the increasingly green US auto market, it's not the only automaker with its eyes on the big 4-0.

Ford is touting its own range of four models under 40 mpg, promising that its 2011 range will be the industry's "broadest lineup of fuel economy leaders."

The range includes three 2011 models - the Fiesta SE with SFE package (40 mpg highway), Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (41 mpg/5.72 l/100km city) - and the new 2012 Focus.

The LA Auto Show is open to the public November 19-28.

http://www.laautoshow.com

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