What was once the province of the rich and relentlessly eco-conscious is now heading down-market at a high rate of speed. Only a few years ago, hybrids either came in the Prius flavor, or were only available on upper end Lexus products. But now, a company as declaratively proletariat and everyman as Hyundai is rolling out a plug-in hybrid – one that can can travel 22 miles before you even have to start burning fossil fuels.
Rolling out at the Detroit Auto Show, the 2016 Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid is notable for a number of things.
First and foremost, Hyundai says this thing can go for 22 miles (35.4 km) using just battery power alone. Meaning, if you don't do much driving, say a short commute or just puttering around on errands, you might be able to get through your day without using the internal combustion engine at all.
Also notable is the powertrain. In this case a 9.8 kWh lithium polymer battery pack is expected to give Sonata Plug-in Hybrid the expected all-electric range of up to 22 miles, which, Hyundai says, is farther than any other midsize PHEV sedan (for reference, the Toyota Prius makes about half that distance in "EV Mode"). There's a six-speed automatic transmission with a what's called a Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device (TMED) attached to it. In layman's terms it's a 50 kW electric motor in place of the torque converter. This new electrical motor is 32 percent more powerful than the motor used the in regular Sonata Hybrid and also allows EV operation at higher speeds. Old school-wise, there's a 2.0-liter Nu four-cylinder GDI engine coupled to the electric motor. Said mill cranks out 154 horsepower (114 kW) and 140 lb. ft. (190 Nm) of torque and the whole she-bang puts out 202 horsepower at 6,000 rpm.
Economy numbers break down to 93 MPGe combined in EV mode based on internal estimates. In charge sustaining mode (which I'm assuming means using some sort of regenerative braking scheme) the Sonata PHEV is expected to return 38 mpg in the city, 43 mpg on the highway and 40 mpg combined. Recharge time ranges from two and a half hours at a 240 V Level 2 charging station to five hours using a standard 120 V outlet.
The Sonata PHEV also features a rather cool "Blue Link" smartphone app. This handy bit of modern technology will allow you to perform remote control services and vehicle diagnostics. So you can start or stop charging or set up charging schedule with days of the week and time to take advantage of lower nighttime electricity rates. It also lets you deal with climate control and the defroster (handy on very hot or very cold days). And with the connected car services you can run vehicle diagnostics/status, check existing battery level and a whole host of other parameters.
Finally, it's notable that it looks like a car. It does not look like a moon ship or something an anime character would cook dinner in. It looks like a rather run-of-the-mill sedan. Three box design (more or less), squashed hexagonal grill that has been the fashion for a while now, dog-bone lower front end, squinty headlights. The only exterior feature that gives it away is the round port just below the driver's side A-pillar that looks like a misplaced gas cap – this is where the plug-in portion of the plug-in hybrid happens.
The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid will be built at the Asan, South Korea plant and will go on sale in select markets later this year. Sadly, no word on MSRP, but c'mon, it's a Hyundai, how expensive can it be?