The latest and most radical exercise to be created under the "EcoDynamics" sub-brand it announced in Frankfurt last fall, the Kia Ray Plug-in Hybrid Concept matches futuristic looks with cutting edge technology that provides an early look at "a prospective plug-in hybrid configuration" from the Korean automaker.

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Believe it or not, the one-off Ray PHEV Concept is based -- albeit rather loosely -- on Kia's Forte Sedan. Designed at the Kia Design Center America, this four-seat front-drive four-door plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is powered by an all-aluminum 1.4-liter/153-horsepower gasoline direct injected (GDI) engine paired with a permanently-engaged continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and a 106-horse (78Kw) electric motor fed by an advanced lithium-polymer battery. Capable of operating on either or both power sources, the Kia Ray Concept has an estimated range of 746 miles and gets the equivalent of 77.6 mpg when running on pure electricity and 202.3 mpg in PHEV mode. Kia says it will top out at a respectable 109 mph.

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One key to the Ray's ability to generate that level of efficient performance is its ultra-sleek and extremely lightweight composite bodywork, which boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.25. In addition to fully enclosing the Ray's underbody, the design team opted for a tapering tail and movable panels around the front driving lamps and the rear deck that more effectively direct air flow under specific driving conditions. Even the side mirrors and door handles have been replaced by flush-mount motion-detecting cameras. Mechanical drag was also trimmed wherever possible, through the uses of components like an electric power steering system and low-rolling resistance tires.

Despite its rather expansive greenhouse, the glass in the Kia Ray Concept uses a variety of nano-laminate films and cool-glazing materials to reduce solar heat intrusion and dramatically lower both air-conditioning loads and its greenhouse emissions. It also incorporates a solar cell array that powers a cooling fan to reduce interior temps when the vehicle is parked. The Kia Ray's cabin, which makes extensive use of lightweight recycled/recyclable materials and offers a surprising number of soft-touch surfaces, show a similar eco-oriented character. Even its Green Edge Infinity sound system contributes to the cause by employing a lighter and more efficient speaker setup.

No further word on when all or part of the Kia Ray Concept might be turned into some kind of volume-build production vehicle, but the automaker's "power to surprise" tagline has proven to be pretty valid of late. And in this case, the answer could well end up being be sooner rather than later.

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