How Hyundai Will Reach 50 MPG Average by 2025

The 2011 Elantra was Hyundai’s major debut at last week’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The new Elantra is among the emerging class of small gas-powered cars that achieve better than 40 mpg on the highway. It achieves 29 mpg in the city and 40 mpg highway with both the six-speed automatic or manual transmission.

More importantly, the Elantra provides mounting evidence about how the company will reach its lofty goal of achieving a fleet-wide average of 50 MPG by 2025—way ahead of government deadlines.

Putting Gas Engines on a Diet

The Elantra’s Nu engine, developed to replace the 2.0-liter Beta engine from the previous generation Elantra, is smaller and weighs 74 pounds less—helping to achieve an 18-percent improvement in highway fuel economy. The Elantra’s hybrid-like low emissions allow it to be certified as a Partial Zero Emission Vehicle. “We’re trying to find solutions that are friendlier to the environment, but still give the kind of drive that customers expect,” said Mike O’Brien, Hyundai vice-president of production planning, in an interview with HybridCars.com. That’s a huge point for Hyundai as it pushes forward on its MPG goals—to provide fuel economy improvements with “typical” drive feel.

“We’re the first to the market with turbo gasoline direct injection four-cylinder engine that replaces our V6 engine,” O’Brien said. “In fact, it gives better horsepower, better driving performance, and better fuel economy than all our V6 competitors.” The same foundation was applied to the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which employs better aerodynamics, lighter-weight batteries, and more horsepower at levels that beat the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, and Nissan Altima Hybrid.

Mike O’Brien, Hyundai vice-president of production planning, at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show. He spoke about the strategy for the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and hinted at a future plug-in hybrid.

There’s no word yet on Sonata Hybrid’s price—but the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, which starts at $14,830, wins against competitors such as the 2011 Chevy Cruze and 2012 Ford Focus by almost $1,500.

Next Step: Plug-Ins

While O’Brien was most keen to talk about the ho-hum tech advantages, like weight reduction, direct injection, and variable timing—or producing hybrids with a driving feel similar to pure gas-powered cars—Hyundai’s technology pathway goes beyond small efficient gas cars and even conventional hybrids. “We’re certainly looking at plug-in hybrids down the road,” O’Brien said. “We’re very anxious to start talking about that in the near future.” (O’Brien was more hesitant about pure electric cars.) By 2025, the company hopes to generate 20 percent of its annual sales from hybrids, and 5 percent from electric drivetrain vehicles.

Adding plug-in technology—on top of a solid foundation of improved and affordable gas engines—clearly puts Hyundai on the track to achieving its 50-mpg target in the next decade and a half. The company is playing for keeps.


  • Yegor

    Mid-size car with the fuel economy of a subcompact car! Impressive!

  • Anonymous

    by using carb numbers instead of epa numbers?

  • DownUnder

    Regarding impimproving fuel consumption, I remember someone posted on this site some years ago that if fuel consumption goes down, people will be encouraged to travel more and the final outcome is the whole consumption of fossil fuel does not change much!
    What a ru**ish comment. Don’t you have anything else to do apart from travelling in a car? Get a life.

  • Anonymous

    Impressive and great looking – hope they will add a hybrid soon.

    I traded a year ago my 9 year old Elantra for a Prius. That old Elantra had good mpg and boring looks, and it was undestroyable never had a single Problem during those 9 years.

    The looks of the new Elantra, the reliablility and the commitment to better mpg might make be go back at some point.

    Hyundai has transformed itself from a boring low quality car company to a company that produces high reliability, affordable but expensive and good looking cars with good mpg numbers.

    Way to go Hyundai! Now bring on the ‘true’ hybrids.

  • havasuken

    There will be no mpg in 2025. There will be mp$.

  • tapra1

    We’re trying to find solutions that are friendlier to the environment, but still give the kind of drive that customers expect,” said Mike O’Brien, Hyundai vice-president of production planning,CWDev