Hyundai Motor Company plans to start retail sales of its first LPG-electric hybrid vehicle in July 2009, arguably the most sensible hybrid vehicle to come to market. The Elantra LPI Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) will initially be sold in the Korean domestic market and it will be the world?s first hybrid vehicle to be powered by liquid petroleum gas (LPG) as well as the first to adopt advanced Lithium Polymer (Li-Poly) batteries.
Powered by a Liquefied Petroleum Injected (LPI) Gamma engine displacing 1.6 litres, a 15kW electric motor and a continuously variable transmission, the Elantra LPI HEV is a mild-type hybrid capable of delivering a competitive fuel economy rating.
?The Elantra LPI HEV demonstrates Hyundai?s innovative approach: We have leveraged Hyundai?s world leadership in LPG-fuelled vehicles to develop a hybrid that will be very economical to operate,? said Dr. Hyun-Soon Lee, president of the Research and Development Division.
The Elantra LPI HEV promises to be cheaper to operate than any of the current production hybrids on the market. Hyundai are suggesting that it will be 40 percent cheaper to operate than other competitor models in the marketplace and 50 percent less than a conventional Elantra model powered by a petrol only engine. (Calculations are based on Korean domestic retail price of 1,907.08 KRW per litre of petrol and LPG price of 1,828.65 KRW per kilogram as of the first week of June 2008).
Hyundai estimate that the fuel savings achieved by running the Elantra LPI HEV will offset its price premium (over the conventional petrol model) in around two years.
If you?re thinking that the LPI HEV Elantra is missing an acronym, then you?d be right. It?s also a SULEV or Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle emitting just 103g/km of CO2 and 90 percent fewer emissions than an equivalent standard petrol powered Elantra.
The Elantra LPI HEV will be the first car in the world to use lithium polymer rechargeable batteries, which will be supplied solely by LG Chem, one of the leading producers of the batteries. Li-poly batteries have significant advantages over lithium-ion batteries including higher energy density and lower manufacturing costs. They are also more robust and resistant to physical damage as well as being capable of enduring more charge-discharge cycles before storage capacity begins to degrade.
Unfortunately, initial sales of the Elantra LPI HEV are to be restricted to the Korean domestic market but Hyundai is investigating export opportunities in markets with an suitable LPG distribution infrastructure, such as China and Australia.
Hyundai have promised to release more detailed technical specifications closer to the July 2009 launch date.