Hyundai used the L.A. auto show to announce its first U.S.-market hybrid vehicle. The next-generation Hyundai Sonata will be a full hybrid, meaning it can run on electricity alone at low speed and for a limited distance.
Hyundai will use a unique version of a two-mode—or parallel—hybrid system designed to operate at peak efficiency in both city and highway driving. The Sonata will be the first hybrid to use lithium-polymer batteries instead of the current nickel-metal hydride or planned lithium-ion applications. The Korean manufacturer says the use of lithium-polymer batteries will result in a more durable and space-efficient package than other hybrids. The Sonata hybrid will not be a plug-in hybrid but Hyundai plans to add such a system alongside a fuel-cell vehicle at some point in the future.
The Sonata hybrid is due to launch in 2010, likely as a 2011 model. This hybrid introduction, accompanied by high-mileage “Blue” editions of the Accent and Elantra, will help Hyundai achieve a fleet average of 35 mpg by 2015, five years ahead of the 35-mpg CAFE requirement’s 2020 effective date.
Hyundai has already said it plans to start selling an Elantra in Korea in July 2009 as the automaker’s first ever gas-electric hybrid vehicle.
Hyundai will introduce seven new vehicles by the end of 2011 under what it calls its 24/7 Version 2.0 program. It is the second phase of a product onslaught that began with the original 24/7 that called for the launch of seven new vehicles from 2004 to 2006.
First up under the new plan is the Elantra Touring five-door hatchback, based on the i30 wagon sold in Europe, which is slated to begin production in November for sale in early 2009. Second to bat will be the 2010 Genesis coupe in the first quarter of 2009.