July 8, 2008 Hyundai’s world first Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) hybrid will go on sale in Korea twelve months from now with operating costs poised to be lowest of any hybrid currently available, despite being largely based on the existing Elantra model. It will also be the first to use Lithium-Polymer batteries to power its electric motor. The novel internal combustion powerplant is a Liquefied Petroleum Injected (LPI) 1.6 litre four cylinder assisted by a 15kW electric motor driving through a continuously variable transmission.
Hyundai Motor Company plans to start retail sales of its first LPG-electric hybrid Elantra in July 2009 and promises to be the cheapest of all currently available hybrid vehicles. The Elantra LPI HEV leverages Hyundai's vast knowledge of LPG-fuelled vehicles to develop a hybrid that will be very economical to operate. It promises to be as much as 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, according to Hyundai. Those 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.
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The Elantra LPI HEV will have a premium cost compared to a conventional Elantra due to the extra hardware (Li-Poly battery, DC motor and electrical control system). However, with the resulting fuel savings, Elantra LPI HEV buyers can expect to recover the extra cost of the vehicle in about two years according to Hyundai.
In addition, the Elantra LPI HEV emits just 103g/km of CO2 and 90 percent fewer emissions than an equivalent standard petrol powered Elantra to qualify as a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV).
The Elantra LPI HEV will be the first car in the world to use lithium polymer rechargeable batteries, which will be supplied by LG Chem, the world's fourth-largest rechargeable battery producer. Li-poly batteries have significant advantages over lithium-ion batteries including higher energy density, lower manufacturing costs, being more robust to physical damage and they can also take more charge-discharge cycles before storage capacity begins to degrade.
Hyundai developed its very first hybrid electric vehicle in 1995 when it unveiled the Future Green Vehicle at the Seoul Motor Show. In 1999, it showed an Elantra HEV and in 2000, an Accent HEV, both of which featured hard-type parallel electric drive systems and integrated Starter Generator technology. However, these research development vehicles did not go into mass production.
In 2004, the company delivered 50 Getz petrol-electric hybrid vehicles (B-segment vehicles badged as Hyundai Getz in the Korean domestic market) to Korean government agencies as part of a fleet demonstration project. These were mild-type hybrid systems using 12kW motors and nickel metal hydride batteries. The hybrid technology development program continued to expand and in 2005, the Hyundai Automotive Group delivered 350 more units to the demonstration fleet, 730 more units in 2006 and 1,682 more units in 2007, including Accent HEVs.
Current plants call for expanding the hybrid vehicle line-up to include mid-sized sedans in 2010.
Initial sales of the Elantra LPI HEV are to be restricted to the Korean domestic market. Hyundai is investigating export opportunities in markets with an excellent LPG distribution infrastructure, such as China and Australia.
As the Elantra LPI HEV remains under development, more detailed technical specifications will be released closer to the July 2009 launch date.