According to Hyun Jin Cho, a member of Kia’s Sustainability Management Team, Kia will be introducing a new system on the Optima designed to encourage more efficient driving habits.

What is “eco-driving”?

According to Mr. Cho, today’s oil prices leave drivers with two main options: “One is leaving their cars at home, which most of us don’t intend to do; and the other is ‘eco-driving.’”

The Sustainability Management Team at Hyundai has defined ‘eco driving’ as the ability to efficiently drive your vehicle. To help vehicle owners drive more efficiently, the team has defined what they call the “Five simple golden rules of eco-driving”:

1. Avoid speeding and maintain a constant speed.
2. Change gears as soon as possible.
3. Avoid sharp acceleration and sudden braking.
4. Check tire pressure frequently.
5. Move with the traffic flow.

According to a statement on the Kia Buzz web site, “Eco driving can reduce exhaust gas emissions, help prevent accidents, lengthen car life and save energy. Tests have shown that eco driving can enhance fuel efficiency by 10 to 30%. However, the practice of eco-driving is subjective amongst drivers. Other than the UK, where the driver’s license test incorporates the concept of eco-driving, changing bad driving habits and separate education on eco-driving is easier said than done.”

The 'Eco Driving' System

To help drivers “master” the five golden rules, Kia is offering the Eco Driving System as a standard feature in the enhanced Lotze (known as the Optima in the United States). This vehicle was launched in Korea on June 12th and it will be the first car in Korea to feature such a system. An “eco lamp”, located on the dashboard and integrated with the speedometer, will guide the driver to drive in the most economical way.

Kia Eco Lamp

According to Kia, here’s how it works: “A green lamp will come on to indicate high fuel efficiency driving (eg, traveling at a constant speed), while a red lamp will indicate low fuel efficiency (eg, sharp acceleration, sudden braking). A white lamp will come on to show normal fuel efficiency or standby mode. The system is designed to encourage eco-driving by providing real-time feedback to the driver. “

To back up the claims of increased efficiency, comparison tests were conducted during a recent real-life test drive in Korea. Kia Motors entered 10 Lotzes (Optimas) in an actual eco-driving event. Through the 4.35 mile (7km) route, 100 drivers were asked to drive the course using in their usual driving habits. After receiving special training on the new system from Kia instructors, drivers were then asked to run the course again applying the knowledge from the lessons that they’d just received.

Based on the test drives conducted that day, the highest fuel consumption rate was 32.4 mpg while the average was 29.4 miles per gallon. These figures were 10 to 20% better than the Lotze’s official fuel consumption rate (the Korean equivalent to EPA mileage estimates).

System coming to the U.S.

According to Mr. Cho, this system is will soon be available in U.S.-spec Optimas, as well. In addition to the Eco Driving System, Kia Motors “will continue to hold campaigns to promote economical and eco-friendly driving habits to help drivers better cope with surging oil prices.”