Hyundai to go hi-tech with hybrids and fuel cells

Hyundai announced Sunday that it will be jumping whole-heartedly into the hybrid business. A day after Toyota announced that its Prius and Camry hybrid models would be sold on its South Korean home turf, Hyundai has let it be known they would speed up their mass production plans and counter their competitor at home and abroad. Because of rising fuel costs and consumer eco-awareness, the company is predicting over a million hybrids to be sold annually by 2010 and it wants a large slice of that action.

The first model to undergo the transformation will be the 2009 Elantra, sold in South Korea as the Avante. It will initially run on LPG while a gasoline version will soon be developed for the American market. Not mentioned specifically in the news release was whether or not it would be a plug-in hybrid as had been rumoured although we are pretty sure LG Chem will be the battery supplier. The ambitious plan calls for similar treatment to occur with its other major models, starting with the Sonata in 2010.

While touring a Kia plant, Chairman Chung Mong Koo, let slip, "...We also plan to produce a small fleet of fuel cell electric vehicles from 2012." We have known that Hyundai is competent with fuel cell technology but it remains to be seen whether any amount of refueling infrastructure is put in place to make North American sales feasible in the next few years. Hit the jump to read the news release directly from Hyundai.

Press release:

March 24, 2008
Hyundai to Mass Produce Hybrid Cars Starting 2009, Chairman Says

# Hyundai´s First Hybrid Car for Mass Production Will be Avante (Elantra) LPI

# Hyundai to Produce Small Fleet of Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles by 2012
# Greatly Improve Fuel Efficiency, Cut CO2 Emissions:
Opening a New Era for Environmentally-Friendly Cars

(Seoul, Korea) Hyundai Motor Company plans to mass produce Hybrid Electric Vehicles starting next year, opening a new era for environmentally-friendly cars.

While accompanying South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on a Kia Motors´ plant tour on March 21, Hyundai-Kia Chairman Chung Mong Koo said the automobile company will mass produce environmentally-friendly cars from 2009 to create new jobs and develop the industry into a next-generation value-adding growth engine.

"The importance of developing futuristic, environmentally-friendly cars is increasing for sustainable growth," Chairman Chung said. "Therefore, technology for advanced cars, like the hybrid, is imperative. We also plan to produce a small fleet of fuel cell electric vehicles from 2012."

To meet its 2009 mass production target, Hyundai´s step-by-step plan is to

– Develop Technology
– Create a mass production system
– Expand model line-up

In accordance with this plan, Hyundai will begin its first mass production with the compact-sized LPG model, the Avante (Elantra) LPI (Liqufied Petroleum Injection) hybrid, a car that uses both Liquefied Petroleum Gas and electricity. In 2010, Hyundai plans to introduce mid-sized hybrids that use gasoline and LPG.

Currently, Hyundai provides Verna (Accent) hybrid models to government agencies as pilot projects. The plan is to expand the line-up to mid-sized sedans and beyond for mass production, starting from 2009.

Hyundai entered the environmentally-friendly auto market in October 2004, when it supplied the government with 50 Click (Getz) hybrid cars. Since then, Hyundai and Kia have supplied the government with 350 hybrid cars in 2005, including the Verna model. This number increased to 730 cars in 2006 and 1,682 cars in 2007, totalling about 2,800 cars so far.

Based on the technology accumulated from producing these cars, Hyundai will from 2009 mass produce hybrid cars that use LPG, which creates less pollution than conventional cars. Hyundai is also kicking its development plans into full gear with the aim to mass produce Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) beginning 2012.

Hyundai plans to expand a demo fleet of FCEV´s to 500 units by 2010, including mid-to-large size SUV´s, then establish a small production system to begin mass production from 2012.

The mass production of hybrid cars in 2009 will be a turning point for Hyundai, which will increase its competitiveness in the environmentally-friendly car sector, an area automakers worldwide are counting on for their strategic survival in the next-generation business sector.

[Source: Hyundai]

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