Hyundai took the wraps off of its brand of hybrid technology at the Paris Auto Show, presenting a gasoline-electric version of its mid-size Santa Fe SUV. This mild-hybrid package matches Hyundai's 2.4-liter, in-line four Theta engine and a six-speed automatic transmission paired with a 40-horsepower electric motor powered by a 270-volt lithium-polymer (Li-poly) battery. While the Santa Fe served as the demonstrator for this hybrid hardware, Hyundai plans to unveil a rolling chassis that will be used in a hybrid version of the Sonata sedan that's due to go on sale here in 2010 -- and to provide more comprehensive insights about its environmental strategy for the U.S. market -- at next-month's Los Angeles Auto Show.
According to Hyundai, the proprietary technology seen in the Santa Fe concept will be the foundation for all of its next-generation hybrids. Like many other mild hybrid designs, Hyundai's system incorporates a number of design features to help maximize fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Key among them are taller ratios in the top three transmission gears, optimized electronic engine controls and start/stop circuitry that shuts the engine down to prevent wasting fuel while idling, and major friction-reducing elements throughout the drivetrain, from low-viscosity oil to low-rolling resistance tires. One item of particular note is the Li-poly battery. Hyundai claims this leading-edge technology is more effective at storing charge, has superior durability, a longer projected lifespan and costs less to produce than the current lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that have started replacing Nickel-Metal Hydride units as the battery of choice for many other hybrids.
Although a bit tardy to the hybrid party, Hyundai appears determined to establish itself as an innovative force in this arena. Its first domestic-market hybrid offering that goes on sale next June in Korea will be an Elantra sedan that uses an engine powered by liquid petroleum gas and an electric motor fed by a Li-poly battery.