Hyundai will release its first hybrid vehicle for sale to the general public in 2009, as long as the general public in question lives in Korea. Though the automaker has been testing hybrids for the last few years, only government officials were able to drive the vehicles. According to Hyundai, though, none of the research and development costs for its hybrid drivetrain were paid for through government grants. This information seems much more important after Mark Fields' recent assertion that the Korean government had provided assistance to its automakers for the development of the fuel-saving technology. There has also been some question as to whether the Japanese government helped pay for hybrid development, though Toyota denies these allegations.

Regardless of who has funded its development, Hyundai's first hybrid will be the Avante, which is known as the Elantra in the U.S. Interestingly, the first versions of the vehicle will use liquified petroleum gas (LPG) for fuel, along with, of course, electricity. The year 2010 will bring a flex-fuel version capable of using gasoline or LPG. So far, there is no announcement regarding a launch date in the states, though Hyundai indicates it would like to be selling hybrids here by 2011. By that time, the market will be much more crowded.

[Source: Automotive News - sub. req'd]

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