Hyundai Aims for 35 mpg Average by 2015

Hyundai Motor America announced today that it will be able to achieve a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2015, five years ahead of the timetable for new fuel economy regulations. The company revealed its fuel economy goals at the Los Angeles Auto Show, where it unveiled Hyundai’s first gas-electric hybrid vehicle, the Hyundai Sonata sedan—slated for the North American market in 2010.

“We’re taking fuel efficiency higher and faster than any other carmaker. We’re going to pass Toyota and Honda by 2015,” said John Krafcik, vice president of product development at Hyundai Motor America, in an interview with

Maximizing MPG-Per-Dollar Ratio

Hyundai’s fuel efficiency campaign—dubbed “Hyundai Blue Drive”—features a range of advanced technologies, including hybrids powered by lithium batteries, turbocharged gasoline direct injection, and eventually plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric vehicles. But in keeping with its brand, Hyundai will also focus on near-term, low-cost fuel efficiency strategies—such as low-rolling-resistance tires, enhanced aerodynamics, and revised engine calibrations—to offer the highest mpg at the lowest cost. Next year, Hyundai will introduce these measures in “blue versions” of its Accent and Elantra models, allowing the company to price the higher-mpg models lower than conventional models.

A base-level Hyundai Accent sells for approximately $11,000, and offers combined fuel economy of 30 mpg. An “Accent Blue” could conceivably sell for below $10,000, with mpg in the mid-30s.

“In this age, fuel efficiency is the new zero-to-60 time. It’s more socially relevant”

John Krafcik
vice president of product development at Hyundai Motor America

“We don’t think you should have to be rich to afford a high efficiency vehicle,” said Krafcik. “That’s a backwards approach.” Krafcik believes there is a new wave of consumers willing to make significant compromises—such as reducing vehicle weight by riding without a spare tire, swapping power windows and door locks for manual cranks, and trading the smoothest ride for lower tire resistance—in order to maximize miles-per-gallon. Maybe it’s time for the return of the econobox, 21st century-style?

Krafcik compared today’s breed of efficiency enthusiasts with yesterday’s muscle car fans who opted for performance over comfort. “In this age, fuel efficiency is the new zero-to-60 time,” he said. “It’s more socially relevant.”

The Sonata Hybrid’s Lithium Batteries

Hyundai developed its own homegrown hybrid architecture for use in the Sonata. The technical design, known as a parallel hybrid system, will serve as the foundation for future hybrid drive vehicles introduced by Hyundai. In a parallel hybrid, the wheels are turned by power coming directly from the gasoline engine, the electric motor, or both together, as conditions demand. This approach is similar to the design used by Toyota and Ford.

The more significant innovation is the use of a lithium polymer battery system provided by Hyundai’s battery supplier, LG Chem. According to Hyundai, the lithium batteries deliver the same power as today’s hybrid nickel metal hydride batteries—but with 30 percent less weight, 50 percent less volume and 10 percent greater efficiency.

Despite industry concerns about the price and availability of lithium batteries, Krafcik said it wasn’t a hard decision to make the move to lithium. He admits that Hyundai is late to the hybrid market—the Sonata is about two years away from dealerships—and expressed the desire to demonstrate a leadership position with its first hybrid entry. “We asked ourselves where the technology is going to be in five years,” he said. “And how we can get to that end point ahead of time.”

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  • Hyundai owners

    This article is a great news! I can’t wait to see their concept car, which will debut in L.A. today!!
    I hope it’s a brand new model and not the current Sonata based.

  • Jerry

    Looks good I like the concept…..but you better have a sparee and electric windows: )

  • VGG

    Ummm.. that’s 35mpg CAFE, right? The way I understand it CAFE still uses the old measurement system (in use since the seventies) and the EPA (on car stickers) uses an updated, more realistic system. Can someone set me straight on this?

  • sean t

    Good news from Hyundai. A bold move.
    If Hyundai uses lithium-ion baterries, they’ll leap frog Toyota, Honda and others (Doesn’t “Hyundai” mean “Modern” in Korean?).

    I prefer a car with spare tyre, though.

  • Bryce

    the cafe standards go off of the old EPA measuring system, yes, this is true.

  • Bill Cosworth

    Well I am sure they will do it because the cars are so light.

    They will pass GM, Toyota, Honda ETC.

    But the safety of there vehicles will not.

  • Need2Change

    Interesting. I agree that I want a spare tire.

    I guess I would give up the power windows. I wonder what else could be cut that they’re not publicizing. It would take more than power windows and spare tire to reduce the price of the car to under $10K. Hyndai could eliminate:

    power steering
    power door locks
    alloy wheels
    wheel size above 14″
    noise insulation
    seat size and padding
    power seats
    power mirrors
    carpet thickness (or no carpet at all)
    power brakes
    size of the radiator
    size of the engine
    size of the battery
    stereo amp and extra speakers
    capacity of the A/C unit
    number of air bags/curtains
    interior/exterior trim

    My first car, a 1967 Ford Mustang, didn’t have any of the above.

    I’m not sure if I’m ready to give up all this to save a couple $K in purchase price and increase mpg by a couple mpg.

  • Michael peters

    Have you checked the latest NHTSA and IIHS studies of Hyundai cars? Apparently not.

    Safety has nothing very little to do with weight. Saftey depends on the rigidity of the chassis and the structural design of the cabin in dispursing the newton force AROUND the occupants.

  • Michael peters

    An example why weight is NOT a factor in safety:

    Back in the 40’s and 50’s, cars were made mostly out of steel. Therefore, they were extremely heavy. Although they did have strucural body-on-white chassis, they were not designed well enough to disperse force around occupants, making the passengers take the brunt of the force of impact through their bodies.

    Cars nowadays have structural crumple zones to absorb impact and disperse the force around the occupants. They are a LOT lighter in weight as well.

    If you crash a 40’s car with a modern car, I guarantee you the occupant in the modern car will walk away unscathed.

    Therefore, weight is NOT a factor in safety.

  • Shines

    Need2Change you left out plastics or the new buzzword: carbon fiber. Maybe Hyundai discovered a cheap way to produce a quality lightweight carbon fiber body or frame (or both)…
    Saturn has had plastic bodies for years.
    plastics like diesel has always had a negative connotation but if the right material can be used to improve fuel economy, people may not notice/care.

  • Bill Cosworth

    Type in U tube.

    Ford explorer hits Ford Focus

    See who wins

    People I am an engineer. Simple Physics

    The heaver car wins in the accident almost every time.

    Of course smaller cars have gotten safer. Crash tests of them crashing them into a wall where the force is equal to the initial force.

    Try taking a mach truck against a civic. You’re much better off in a Cadillac Escalade.

  • sean t


    I see your point, but if EVERY car company will try to reduce weight of their products, we’ll all live in a better world.

    People try to buy heavy cars “just in case” of accident . . . and then drive as maniac . . .

  • SamSmith

    Yes I agree with sean t. every car makers will try to reduce weight of their product,we will all live in a better world.

    I hope this car will be great performance on the road.

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