Posted March. 24, 2008 03:16,
The Hyundai Kia Automotive Group aims to commercialize its first hybrid car next year.
During President Lee Myung-baks visit to Kias assembly lines in Gwangju Sunday, Hyundai Kia Automotive Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo reportedly told him that the automaker will advance the scheduled mass production of hybrid cars to next year.
A hybrid car combines an electronic motor with a traditional gas-powered engine to raise fuel efficiency. Japanese carmakers such as Toyota and Honda dominate the global hybrid market.
○ Eco-friendly cars: new growth engine
Hyundai has established a phased implementation plan to commercialize hybrid cars, starting with the development of required technologies, building of a mass production system, and expanding the lineup.
The Hyundai Kia Automotive Group is looking to release the Avante LPI Hybrid (called the Elantra in North America) in 2009, which will use an LPG-electric setup. The automaker will follow up with a gas-electric hybrid and a bigger LPG model in 2010.
The worlds sixth-largest automotive group has made small hybrid vehicles on a trial basis first for government use. The group began by supplying 50 units of Click Hybrid in 2004, and went on to make a combined 2,800 hybrids by the end of last year.
The carmaker will also start selling fuel cell vehicles in 2012 and increase their number in the test stage to 500.
The lineup of such cars will also expand to include SUVs. Hyundai developed in 2000 a fuel cell model of its Sportage SUV, the first of its kind in Korea. In 2004, it introduced second-generation fuel cell cars by using its 80-kilowatt fuel cell for the SUVs Tucson and Sportage.
The group will test 66 self-developed fuel cell vehicles in Korea and overseas next year as part of a pilot program subsidized by the U.S. Energy Department.
Environment-friendly automobiles will be the next growth engine, creating new jobs and adding value, Chairman Chung said. They will help nurture venture companies, greatly contributing to small- and medium-size firms and the national economy.
○ Overseas competitors taking the lead
Global automakers, especially Japanese giants, are still a few steps ahead of Hyundai in the hybrid market. Toyota marked the sale of its one millionth hybrid car in June last year, a decade after rolling out the first hybrid Prius in 1997. Honda has hybrid versions of its Accord and Civic on the market.
Posing a daunting challenge to the Korean automaker, Mercedes-Benz of Germany will also roll out the luxurious S400 Bluetec Hybrid next year and General Motors of the United States will introduce a second-generation hybrid car with a lithium battery in 2010.