Kia has just introduced its first mass production hybrid model based on the new Forte compact sedan in its home market of South Korea. The Forte LPI hybrid uses a smaller 20-hp version of the hybrid system that Hyundai showed at the LA Auto Show last November. That system uses a pancake motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission for electric drive and boost as well as regenerative braking. A separate, integrated starter generator handles auto start-stop duties.
The Forte hybrid uses a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine fueled by liquefied petroleum gas (propane) and is the first production vehicle to use a lithium polymer battery. The new battery was developed by LG Chem and will also be used in the Sonata Hybrid when it debuts next year. Along with the hybrid Forte, Kia rolled out new eco-Dynamics branding for its more efficient vehicles including hybrids.
While it's unlikely we'll ever see an LPG-equipped car from Kia in the U.S. market, it does seem likely that a Forte hybrid with a gas engine will arrive at some point. We've contacted Kia for comment on that but have yet to get a response. Thanks to Mike for the tip!
Update: Kia spokesman Alex Fedorak got back to us on US plans for the Forte hybrid. Unfortunately at this time there aren't any.