Ask the Best and Brightest: Is Hybrid Kinetic Motors' Powerplant Based on BMW's KERS?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Let’s assume for a moment that Hybrid Kinetic Motors and its planned Alabama assembly plant are not just a visa scam. Say, for example, it’s a visa scam that will actually build cars at some point. Can anyone make sense of the limited powertrain specs we have to work with? We’re told the vehicles will have a 1.5-liter combustion engine, capable of running gasoline or compressed natural gas. The curious part is the “hybrid kinetic” element, which will include a battery-electric hybrid system and, one assumes, some form of kinetic energy storage. Brilliance, the Chinese company whose former executives are behind HK Motors have only shown mild hybrids, leading one to assume this drivetrain technology was not developed there. However, Brilliance does build BMWs in China, and the Bavarians have adapted a “Kinetic Energy Recovery System” (KERS), which was created for Formula 1, for the road. That system uses regenerative braking to store small amounts of electricity which can be used to boost power for short periods. HK Motors’ claim that it will get 45 mpg out of a 1.5-liter ICE sounds reasonable, but the “up to 400 hp” spec sounds like pie in the sky. Unless that kind of power is only available for short bursts in a BMW KERS-style system. And though BMW’s F1 team has abandoned KERS, there’s talk of it coming to road cars like the next-gen M5. So has HK Motors licensed/stolen “ flybrid” technology, or is there another system that could plausibly produce these specs? Or, are we wasting our time discussing vapor?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Tauronmaikar Tauronmaikar on Sep 28, 2009

    I would invest in a car company led by a "chinese tycoon" as much as I would invest in a car company led by dot-com millionaires.

  • Niky Niky on Sep 28, 2009
    sfdennis1 : September 28th, 2009 at 3:10 pm This has scam written all over it…sorry, but the Chinese seem like a group of pathological liars, with no respect for intellectual property rights, to boot. Bad news. No more pathological than Caucasians... it's interesting to note that both the terms "snake oil salesman" and "Ponzi scheme" originated in America. Be really afraid. If there's one racial stereotype that actually holds true... it's that Chinese businessmen, like Jewish businessmen, are shrewd, sharp and very good at juggling money. Give it thirty years and you'll all be pecking away at Chinese keyboards in the secretarial pool of some gigantic Chinese firm.
  • Sfdennis1 Sfdennis1 on Sep 29, 2009

    @ niki Just to be clear, my post was not meant to foster a racist attitude...I'm sure there are comparable terms for 'snake oil salesman' and 'ponzi scheme' in the chinese language as well...corruption and shady business practices can be found in all cultures. That said, all one has to do is look at clone after clone, of other manufacturer's work, that the upstart Chinese auto companies have copied, blatantly. I have a fairly low level of trust in their integrity, and/or commitment to any level of 'fair business play'...I'm also ready to be proved wrong, but we'll see, I guess.

  • Brett Woods Brett Woods on Sep 29, 2009

    I would disagree that F1 technology does not trickle down to the Manufacturer’s road cars. I think the current BMW M5/M6 V10’s and the upcoming Lexus V10 supercar are direct products of F1 engineering. Toyota said they would unveil the V10 supercar after an F1 win. Well they have been on the podium twice with a second place in Singapore. Keep in mind, KERS was not given a free hand and was capped severely in 09 and will have the cap raised, but not eliminated for the 10 season. One other factor is that HP for electric engines is calculated differently from HP for ICE’s. If I am not wrong, 400 hp can be made from an “80” hp electric motor. Others could clarify this. A Hayabusa engine can spin really fast and generate a lot of electricity, or 160 hp to the wheels. With two 20+ HP electric motors, these numbers could be in reach.