Though Hyundai's new Sonata Hybrid is expected to crack into the 40-miles-per-gallon territory, its unlikely to remain Hyundai's most fuel-efficient hybrid for long. According to a report from Inside Line, Hyundai's first dedicated hybrid model will debut in 2012. The dedicated hybrid will be powered by a lithium-polymer battery back and should at least nip at the heels of the Toyota Prius for overall fuel efficiency rating. The hybrid-specific model from Hyundai will feature a unique name and a "green" look that will make it easily recognizable as a hybrid product.
In 2013, Hyundai will release a plug-in version of its dedicated hybrid model. This model should come to market right as the plug-in Prius hits the streets. As we mentioned before, Hyundai's aim to lead the U.S. market in overall fuel efficiency means that the company will continue to focus on extracting gains from gasoline engines while also turning a significant amount of attention towards hybrids. Hyundai's vice chairman Hyun-Soon Lee said the company was spending "a fortune" on hybrid development in an attempt to topple the hybrid champion Toyota. In case you are waiting for a purely electric Hyundai, though, don't hold your breath. Hyundai's president of research and development Woong-chul Yang said the company wouldn't even consider an EV unless it could offer "seven times the level of performance at 20 times less price" than current EVs. That might take a while.