Hyundai hasn’t yet put a hybrid car on the market, but the company sure is throwing around some big numbers for its hybrid program. Let’s start with 38 miles to the gallon. According to Hyundai, that’s the mileage expected from the hybrid version of the Santa Fe small SUV, on display this week at the Paris Motor Show.
The company claims that the concept hybrid SUV will reach 38 mpg by virtue of its 2.4-liter gas engine, 40-horsepower electric motor and 270-volt lithium battery pack. The unveiling of the Santa Fe “Blue” Hybrid—no word on actual production—gives further evidence to Hyundai’s serious intentions about hybrids and other fuel efficient vehicles.
Hyundai is using the term “blue” to designate an emphasis on aerodynamics, efficiency, and low weight. The “blue” strategy is employed in the Hyundai i20 concept minicar—also on display in Paris—which could break 60-mpg, according to the company. The i20 combines a diesel engine and micro-hybrid “stop-start” technology to greatly reduce burning petroleum when the vehicle comes to a stop. (By the way, Mercedes and Volkswagen are also using “blue” to mean “green” in their marketing efforts.)
Perhaps the biggest number recently offered up by Hyundai is 500,000. That’s its target for annual hybrid sales by 2018, according to Brandon Yea, senior vice president for marketing. To reach that goal, Hyundai will need to move very fast. The company’s first gas-electric vehicle, the mid-size Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, doesn’t goes on sale until 2010.
Speaking of big numbers, Hyundai research and development chief Lee Hyun-soon told Automotive News that lithium batteries (from Korean battery-maker, LG Chem) could boost mileage of the hybrid Sonata by as much as 70 percent over the non-hybrid version. That would lift efficiency beyond 50 mpg. Earlier this year, a Hyundai spokesperson, speaking to HybridCars.com, put the increase at “20 to 25 percent.”
Lithium ion batteries are still more expensive than current hybrid battery technology, but Hyundai is promising to keep the costs well below the competition. “We’ll bring down the premium charged for hybrids,” said David Zuchowski, vice president of sales for Hyundai Motor’s North American division.