THE HYUNDAI BLUE-WILL concept revealed at this year's Seoul Motor Show was more than a mere concept; it was a preview of what's to come. Hyundai is planning to launch its first petrol-electric hybrid model in South Korea this month, and in the US by 2010.
Powered by an all-aluminium direct-injection 1.6 litre petrol engine connected to a 100kW electric motor and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), the BLUE-WILL may not be the stylistic direction the new Hyundai hybrid will take, but R&D chief Yang Woong-Chul says it is a technological preview of what lies ahead.
"We want to be the leader in fuel economy and alternative fuels," Yang said, pointing to the Chevrolet Volt and the Toyota Prius as Hyundai's targets.
"We want to show our technology and improve our image, not necessarily make money on hybrids."
The hybrid?s electric engine is powered by state-of-the-art Lithium Ion Polymer batteries, stored beneath the rear seats to ensure luggage space remains open and unhindered. Total combined output is 115kW, while range on electric power only is 65km - about equal with the Volt.
To generate a little extra charge, the BLUE-WILL?s glass panoramic roof features integrated dye-sensitised solar cells, which can generate power for the batteries without impeding visibility (for those who like to drive looking up).
The enviro-friendly efforts don?t end at the powertrain though, with recycled PET soft drink bottles used to make the headlight bezels. Plant-extract bio-plastics feature throughout the car, including the engine cover and parts of the interior.
Interestingly, the R&D chief also said that the hybrid system employed in the BLUE-WILL is not expected to be shared with any Kia model - Hyundai?s sister company - in the foreseeable future.