The Santa Fe Blue Hybrid is the catalyst of this announcement, having been on display at last week’s Paris Auto Show. While there is no announced date for production, Hyundai claims this small SUV will achieve 38 mpg from its 2.4-liter gasoline engine and a 270-volt lithium battery pack powering a 40-hp electric motor. Hyundai has confirmed production of its first gas/electric hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid, to go on sale sometime in 2010.
Hyundai has another "blue" model that it showed in Paris; the i20 concept minicar. That vehicle uses a small diesel engine with stop/start technology to greatly reduce consumption. Hybridcars.com states that this concept "could break 60 mpg." They also report that Hyundai R&D chief Lee Hyun-soon told Automotive News that lithium-ion batteries being developed by Korean battery maker LG Chem could boost the Hybrid Sonata’s efficiency "beyond 50 mpg."
Is this another famous "me too" from Korean automakers (much like sister Kia's Soul Hybrid), or are we to believe that Hyundai, who's done nothing so far with hybrids, will be selling 500,000 per year in a decade?--Colin Mathews