Hyundai: Simple Improvements First

While the Toyota hybrid juggernaut marches on, and European automakers continue to lean on diesel to boost fuel economy, Hyundai is taking the simple low-cost route. Timothy White, senior manager of the powertrain department at Hyundai-Kia America’s Technical Center outside Ann Arbor, Mich., told Automotive News that it would meet new stricter fuel economy standards with incremental improvements. White said that improving powertrain efficiency and reducing weight would do the job for Hyundai. “There is really no home run out there,” he said.

The company has hybrids on sale in Korea now and has announced plans to add diesel engines to its SUV in America. But those are follow-up or back-up strategies to its more immediate lower cost options.

Hyundai will use improved aerodynamics, lighter weight materials, tires with lower rolling resistance and electric power steering to replace the traditional hydraulic system. The latter move alone could add 1 mpg to Hyundai models.

On the powertrain side, Hyundai will move to six-speed automatic transmissions, recently introduced on its Veracruz SUV. In addition, the company will move to direct injection gasoline engines, which promise a 3 to 6 percent boost in fuel economy.

While the company focuses on incremental improvements at its U.S. tech center, more dramatic changes are being tried in Korea. Hyundai has had hybrid models available to government fleets for the last couple years and said it would introduce a hybrid that combines liquid petroleum gas and electricity in 2009, followed by a more conventional gas-electric hybrid the following year. In 2005, Hyundai had announced that it would release a hybrid version of its subcompact Accent. Those plans have been indefinitely delayed. The company also continues to work on fuel cell cars as a longer-term solution.

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  • Skeptic

    Good for them. They’ve sure come a long way since the Pony 20 years ago!

  • eti

    “Very good” targets:
    – short-term: no engine change when oil is just peaking;
    – long-term: fuel-cell engine when everybody will use electric with
    battery storage!

  • Registered User

    The strategy that Hyundai is taking is simple and straight forward. That is what we should all be practicing. As they state: “There is really no home run out there”. It may be 1 or 2% for each item, but they add up over time.

  • asmânio de leme

    I dont know how far they really want to go in this track
    less weigh, aerodynamics and a llittle sofistication in powertrain,
    there are a lot to experience and to implement
    but any way, if they are serious, and go further,
    they will have a good score in the game.

    By the way, hey people
    its not not a momentaneous peak
    the oil will continue rising high and high
    There are new kids on the block
    no doubt about

  • Need2Change

    Hyundai has been on a roll over the past 5-7 years.

    My fear is that gasoline prices are rising too fast, and incremental changes won’t be enough if we have $5 gas by summer, $6 next year, and $7 gas in 2010.

    If that happens very few people will buy cars that get under 30 mpg combined.

  • skeller

    Hyundai had made great improvements, and has even tried to enter the luxury car segment with the Genesis, as said in free wheely. They were successful in making its first sales, and even I myself is looking forward to driving one.