Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Parking with Style

This may be the parking job ever.

Found on Fixed Gears Blog.

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Toyota Wants Plug-in Prius in China

Toyota wants to start testing plug-in Prius in China as soon as possible (Source: Nikkei via GCC). And it's no wonder that Toyota would like to succeed in China, where it seems everyone is increasing the number of cars they are selling at incredible rates.

But hybrids are not selling well, so it's a wonder that Toyota is pushing for plug-in hybrids in China. Maybe it's more of a political move, or maybe they are taking a long term approach. After all, the Prius wasn't what you would call an overnight success story here in the states. It took a lot of time for it to really catch on.

And it may just be they don't want GM to get ahead of them with the Volt or Nissan with the Leaf.  It doesn't seem like Toyota is getting close to a production ready plug-in.  And the Volt is only months away.

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Initial Demand for Nissan Leaf is High

Nissan is pretty happy so far with the initial demand for their 100 mile range electric vehicle, the Leaf. According to reports, more than 6,000 pre-orders have been made in just the first three days.

There were 117,000 people who registered on the Nissan website to be informed when the Leaf was ready to be ordered. Within the first three hours of opening up reservations, 2,700 of those followed up with a small down payment to pre-order their Leaf.

Nissan has the capacity to build 50,000 Leafs in the first year. 3,700 people pre-ordered in Japan, making sure the supply will be going to both countries at first. That's going to keep the waiting list up if the reservation list keeps growing.

Part of the demand for the Leaf is coming from the price tag. Combined with the federal and state tax credit, you could be paying just over $20,000 for an all electric vehicle. Of course, you have to be living in the right state.

Nissan is hoping for 25,000 pre-orders by December.

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Fisker Looks for More Millions to Upgrade Delaware Plant

Fisker is looking for more government money. After receiving almost $529 million from the federal loan program, they are looking for the state of Delaware to kick in another $9 million in a grant.

The grant money will be used to offset utility costs while it upgrades the GM facility in Newport using another $12.5 million from a convertible loan.

There's nothing really new about this sort of thing. The major automakers have relied on loans, grants, tax breaks and other money from the government for decades to build cars. The only difference here is the size of the automaker and the single type of car they are working on (plug-in).

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Fisker Gets $500 Million From the Government

Fisker has closed its loan with the federal government, giving it $528.7 million to help develop the Karma and NINA programs.

The NINA program is its new development, a family sedan to be built in the old Delaware GM plant.

"The story of Fisker is a story of ingenuity of an American company, a commitment to innovation by the U.S. government and the perseverance of the American auto industry," said Vice President Joe Biden. "The Boxwood Plant is opening again, employing workers in Delaware, and is serving as a roadmap for all we can accomplish if everyone works together. Thanks to real dedication by this administration, loans from the Department of Energy, the creativity of U.S. companies, and the tenacity of great state partners like Delaware—we're on our way to helping America's auto industry reclaim its top position in the global market."

Fisker says the NINA will cost consumers just under $40,000 after federal tax credits.

"Not only will the Fisker projects contribute to cleaner air and reduced carbon emissions, these plug-in hybrid cars will help put American ingenuity at the forefront of automotive design and production," said Secretary Chu. "And they will bring innovative cars to the market place while putting American workers back on the job," Secretary Chu added.

Fisker's plug-in hybrid products will be among the first to market and will help to accelerate the introduction of fuel-saving electrified vehicles in the United States. When full production is reached in 2015, Fisker estimates annual sales at up to 115,000 vehicles. Combining Fisker projected sales volume with the expected sales volume of the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model S, sales of electric and PHEVs funded with DOE ATVM loans could exceed 300,000 annually.

Initially, Fisker Automotive will use the proceeds of the loan for qualifying engineering integration costs as it works with primarily U.S. suppliers to incorporate components into the Karma's design. The engineering integration work will be conducted in Irvine, California, where engineers will design tools and equipment and develop manufacturing processes. The Karma is scheduled to appear in showrooms in late 2010. The second stage will involve the purchase and retooling of the former GM plant to manufacture the Project NINA line of PHEVs, which is expected to begin rolling off the assembly line in late 2012.

Fisker automobiles are driven by electric motors that get their power from a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, or, when that is depleted, by a generator driven by an efficient gas-powered engine. The Karma and Project NINA models will have an all-electric, tailpipe-emission-free range of 40 to 50 miles on a full charge, more than most Americans drive each day. The battery can be charged at home overnight. Using gas and electric power, Fisker plug-in hybrids are expected to have a cruising range of up to 300 miles.

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Fusion and Milan Recall Notice

The 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan are included in a new recall by Ford. The recall affects the Explorer and Explorer Sport Trac, too.

The front seat manual recliners fail to comply with federal standards. The gear plate teeth may be out of dimension specification which could result in limited pawl to gear plate tooth engagement.

In a crash, the seatback and head restraint may move rearward, increasing the risk of injury.

Dealers will replace the manual recliners for both power and manual seats free of charge. The safety recall is expected to begin on or before April 30, 2010. Owners may contact ford at 1-866-436-7332.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Prius MPV - Toyota Minivan for Next Year

Nikkei is reporting a Toyota minivan is in the works. The new minivan may, if the reports are correct, will come with a Prius badge. The report also has the new Prius MPV may be available as early as next year.

And to top it off, it may come with a lithium-ion battery pack, which the Prius doesn't have.

The report goes on to say the new larger hybrid will likely have three rows of seating for five to seven passengers and sliding doors.

The new hybrid minivan will be 'competitively priced,' whatever that means. I'm guessing minivan owners will be excited to have the choice of a more fuel efficient ride.

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Hybrids Need to Make Some Noise

David Strickland thinks hybrids may be too quiet for safety.

"A quieter fleet could potentially put pedestrians at risk, especially blind pedestrians," Strickland said at the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress.

Which means hybrid owners may soon be looking at artificial noise makers installed onto their cars. Strickland, as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will most likely back up any claims with requirements for all vehicles. Electric and hybrid cars, which run on electric power at low speeds, make little to no noise.

"NHTSA is currently conducting a research program on quieter cars and the safety of blind pedestrians. Our analysis of limited data from 12 states shows that hybrid electric vehicles do have a significantly higher incidence rate of pedestrian crashes than internal combustion engines for certain maneuvers -- like slowing or stopping, backing up, entering or leaving a parking space, and making a turn."

"I am challenging the auto industry and the cell phone industry to work collaboratively with us to keep the driver focused on their required task: driving."

It should be noted that not everyone thinks silent running is the problem, however. Amy Freeland, an investigator with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that most of the fatal encounters occurred when the hybrids were going faster than 35 mph.

"There's a piece we don't know about this," says Amy. "And I think that may be market distribution." She suspects -- but can't yet prove -- that people who drive in crowded areas with high pedestrian traffic, like cities or beach towns, are more likely to drive hybrids. More pedestrians means more chances of a pedestrian accident.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Alliance to Promote Natural Gas Hybrids

The American Public Gas Association (APGA), NGVAmerica, and Hybrid Kinetic Motors Corporation (HK Motors) formed an alliance to promote the mass production of natural gas powered hybrid cars. The alliance will promote the following ideals:

  • Promoting consumer interest in natural gas hybrids
  • Encouraging federal and state governments to extend the current range of incentives to encourage consumers, businesses, and governments to choose natural gas hybrid vehicles and the infrastructure necessary to sustain them. This would include advocating the passage of “The NAT GAS Act of 2009” (HR 1435; S. 1408)”
  • Promoting research and development efforts of natural gas vehicle/infrastructure technologies as well as related business models
  • Working with natural gas distribution companies to install home fueling appliances and provide services for NGV purchasers
  • Encouraging fleet owners of CNG fueling stations to expand their installations to include retail access to new NGV car owners
  • Supporting access to more domestic supplies of natural gas.

Hybrid Kinetic Motors will be building a new line of hybrids at their plant in Alabama starting in 2013.  Natural gas hybrids will be similar to gas-electric hybrids except for that one small detail.

Which is why supporting more domestic supplies of natural gas and encouraging an infrastructure to support it is so important before 2013.

“The American public is becoming very familiar with hybrid technology, and this is the next evolution,” says Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica.

“This new collaboration intends to break through the ‘chicken or egg’ barriers that have limited natural gas from being recognized by the public for what it is: the most abundant, efficient, environmentally friendly and affordable domestic fuel for consumer vehicles,” said Bert Kalisch, president of APGA.

Natural gas offers significant greenhouse gas advantages. Compared to gasoline vehicles, NGVs produce 29 percent less greenhouse gases. When vehicle power-trains are designed specifically to use natural gas and combined with hybrid technologies, greenhouse gas levels can be reduced by half while providing fuel efficiency to meet or exceed the new federal standards.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Russian Hybrid in the Works

Russia is investing in hybrid technology to the tune of $204 million. In a joint venture, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and Russian truck maker Yarovit, will create three electric car prototypes in December (Source: Bloomberg).

Production will begin in January of 2011, and will 'break-even' by mid-2012.

That's quite a feat. Toyota, Honda and Ford took a lot longer to 'break even' on their initial investment into developing hybrid technology. Other automakers have yet to do so (it's hard to tell really. It's not like they come out and tell you).

The car will cost about 300,000 rubles ($10,300) to 450,000 rubles and will run on gas and methane.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Hourly Hybrids on Hawaii

Green Car Hawaii is ready to try something new. When you visit Hawaii, you may spend a lot of time in and around your hotel, which means you may not need a rental car for most of your stay. What if you had the option of renting a car by the hour? What if it was a hybrid?

That's the idea behind Green Car Hawaii (found via Pacific Business). Owners Warren Doi and Justin MacNaughton. And it's all at an amazing rate of $15 an hour!

In partnership with Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa, guests can rent one of four custom-made, family-friendly Ford Hybrid Escapes with all the latest technological frills, including an iPad, for an “all-inclusive” $15 per hour, Doi said.

The biggest difficulty I would see is getting to and from the hotel itself, but shuttles and buses can get you there and back to the airport. Now you don't have to worry about getting to the luau on the other side of the island.

Nice idea.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Toyota Plug-in Prius Just Like Every Other Car

According to Edmunds Senior Editor, John O'Dell:

They seem to do everyting Toyota has said it's PHEV will do, ncluding powering down the freeway at a steady 60 miles an hour in all-electric drive for a bit

But absent some heart-wrenching flaw that wasn't apparent in my limited time behind the wheel, the most I can say about Toyota's PHEV Prius is that driving it is pretty much just like driving a standard Prius, but with a bit less engine noise.
But isn't that what you want from a car? No matter what's in the engine compartment, you still want it to drive like every other car.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Volt Testing 40 Mile Range

GM says testing of the pre-production Chevy Volt is going well. The Volt batteries are averaging about 40 miles of all electric driving, but of course, your mileage will vary. After the initial all electric range, drivers can expect very high fuel efficiency from the small gas motor.

In the call this morning Andrew Farah, Volt Chief Engineer, had some interesting things to say.

Farah did explain that consumers will experience about a 20% variability in electric range depending on four variables in the following order of importance:

“Driving aggressiveness is number one, terrain is number two, weather and terrain is number three,” he said. Bly noted in cold weather a car consumes as much energy to keep its occupants warm as it does to travel down the road.
Farah also said that he uses 50 mpg as his 'bogey' when driving in charge sustaining mode (when the gas engine is recharging the battery pack). And that "So far I haven’t been disappointed.” But don't expect the EPA numbers to reflect that.

Also, GM is hoping battery costs will drop drastically as each successive generation enters production. Given the overall cost, it's the battery pack that is putting early estimates into the $40K range. So, if each successive generation can halve the cost, that's going to make the Volt into a contender against even the Prius.

But then, GM may just end up relying on smaller battery packs, with less electric range.  That would certainly cut costs, but it would also make the Volt less attractive to buyers, who may just opt for the Prius.

GM has recently completed a round of cold weather testing in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, and will undergo additional hot weather testing in Yuma, AZ, in June and July.

The Volt is set to launch in November, with little chance the date will move either way at this point. As the date gets closer, GM says it is beginning to ramp up its production capabilities, with an additional $8 million to double the size of its automotive battery lab in Warren.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

UCS Praises, Condemns New Hybrids

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have both praised and condemned two of the latest hybrid offerings. The UCS auto engineers feel the BMW ActiveHybrid X6, a 'muscle hybrid', squanders its hybrid drivetrain by boosting power.

At the same time, the Mercedes-Benz S400 is seen as partially successful. It lowers cost, but uses a 'relatively weak' hybrid drivetrain along with a downsized conventional gasoline engine, to increase fuel efficiency.

The UCS updated their Hybrid Scorecard to reflect their findings.

BMW ActiveHybrid X6
The ActiveHybrid X6
UCS points out BMW has added on to an already powerful eight cylinder engine to boost the X6 to the highest horsepower and torque of any hybrid on the market. And so the hybrid X6 has become the worst performer, from an environmental perspective, than the Lexus RX 450h. The RX450h has a 7.4 rating on the UCS Scorecard, while the X6 was given a 4.4.

The UCS also notes the X6 ActiveHybrid comes with $10,000 of 'forced features', including a deluxe sound system and other features not included in the base model. The UCS feels that unnecessary features drive up the cost of hybrid cars.

S400 Hybrid from Mercedes-Benz
The Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid
The first hybrid from Mercedes-Benz, on the other hand, took and eight cylinder engine and replaced it with a six-cylinder hybrid. That improved the costs and made for higher fuel economy. And for the first time for a hybrid, the S400 hybrid actually costs less than the base mode S550.

The S400 Hybrid is a mild hybrid, incapable of driving on electric power alone. But it does come with start-stop technology and regenerative braking. It's also the first production hybrid to use lithium-ion batteries. The S400 comes with no forced features.

The UCS engineers gave the S400 a score of 5.3 on their scorecard, but not the hybrid value is 'very high.'  In other words, the environmental 'bang for your buck' or cost effectiveness of the S400 Hybrid is very high in achieving its environmental performance.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ford Will Build Batteries in Michigan

Ford is continuing to expand on their ability to build hybrid and electric cars. In January, Ford announced they would be building and assembling hybrid battery packs in the state of Michigan, but hadn't said where. Ford has just sent a letter to the Rawsonville plant (Source: freep.com | Detroit Free Press) letting them know they are in line for the assembly.

Ford has taken a cautious route to building up their hybrid and electric car line-up. Despite being the first to develop and sell a modern-day hybrid SUV (Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner Hybrid), Ford has only expanded their hybrid line-up by two cars since then.

But, with the initial investment in, and the costs coming down, it looks like Ford is beginning the process of truly expanding on their hybrid and electric car expertise.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Honda CR-Z May Add More Power

Honda CR-Z Hybrid
Maybe it's because the CR-Z has been so popular in Japan (it hasn't even launched yet), but rumors are out there Honda is working on a revamped, more powerful CR-Z Hybrid.

Motortrend is reporting the next generation hybrid sports coupe may come with a "2.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine attached to Honda's well-known IMA hybrid system, which would lift this coupe's engine capacity by one full liter over the CR-Z."

Honda could add in a switch, making it possible for the driver to opt for a more fuel efficient configuration, or go sporty instead.

Honda is also looking at turning the CR-V into an E-REV like the Chevy Volt. Now that would be intriguing, although we'll have to wait and see how the Volt does. Will the extra cost of the battery outweigh people's desire to not use gasoline, while still having the security blanket the gasoline gives you? Or will people opt for the lower price of the Nissan Leaf, and go all electric.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hybrid Car Brands

Just who is making hybrid cars these days and what brands are considering making hybrid cars in the future?

Major Hybrid Car Brands
Hybrid cars are currently being built and sold by General Motors, Ford, Honda, Toyota and Nissan. General Motors builds hybrid cars under several divisions including Saturn, Chevrolet, and GMC.  Ford has the Mercury and Ford divisions.  Toyota sells hybrids under the brand name of Lexus .  While Honda and Nissan just sell hybrids under their own name plates.

Under the Toyota brand name, there are three models currently on sale. The iconic Prius is almost synonymous with hybrid and is the first car most people think of when they think of hybrids. Toyota also sells the Camry Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid under the moniker of Toyota.

Toyota also has their luxury division, the Lexus hybrids. Under the Lexus brand name, Toyota sells the HS, LS, RX, and GS Hybrids. They keep adding models under the Lexus nameplate, so expect and IS hybrid to arrive soon. The HS hybrid is a dedicated model like the Prius. The others are subtypes under the model. In other words, you can buy gas-only models, or you can opt for the hybrid engine.

Honda sells the Civic Hybrid under their brand name. They also currently sell the only other dedicated hybrid on the road, the Insight. They used to sell a Hybrid Accord, and the two-seater hybrid Insight, but have retired both models.

Expect to see Acura Hybrids in the future.

Nissan has only one hybrid model for sale, the Nissan Altima Hybrid. It is built using hybrid technology from Toyota and is sold in only eight US states. Nissan has plans to bring an Infiniti M35 Hybrid to market in the coming year.

General Motors (Cadillac, Chevy, Saturn, GMC)
They build several models (currently) using the Chevrolet brand. There is the Chevy Malibu and Chevy Silverado. The Chevy Volt, the Extended Range Electric Vehicle (E-REV), will be out soon and while GM considers the Volt to be a subtype of electric vehicle, it still falls under the hybrid type.

GM also builds the GMC Yukon and Sierra. And the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid also falls under the GM brand.

The Saturn brand was at one point, the cornerstone for hybrids under the GM umbrella. But Saturn is no more. You can still see the hybrid Vue and Aura on the road today.

Ford sells four different models under two different brand names. The Mercury Division sells the Milan and Mariner Hybrid. While Ford retains the Fusion and Escape Hybrid. The Lincoln division will have its own hybrid soon, but it's not here yet. The Mercury hybrids are the upgraded version of the Ford Hybrids, so expect them to be very similar if you take a look at both of them.

Chrysler sold the Aspen and Durango Hybrids for a total of two months before pulling the plug on both models. The Dodge Durango is very similar to the Chrysler Aspen, and both were built using the dual hybrid technology developed in partnership with BMW and GM.

Chrysler at one point had plans to bring a Dodge Ram Hybrid to market, but that seems to be on hold.

Hyundai is jumping in with both feet in the next year, with the Sonata Hybrid. Distinguishing itself from the other hybrids listed above, it's going to be one of the first hybrids to use lithium polymer battery packs, giving it an advantage over some of the more established hybrid models and brands listed above.

Mazda has sold the Tribute hybrid in very limited numbers.  The Tribute was built using Ford Hybrid technology, when Mazda and Ford were a lot tighter than they are today.  Now Mazda is looking to partner with Toyota for the technology used in the Prius for their future hybrid model in 2013.

Fisker and Tesla
Fisker and Tesla are both bringing hybrid cars to market (they probably don't appreciate being lumped together given the lawsuits over the past few years). These startups are working hard to go straight to electric or hybrid and are emphasizing performance, rather than fuel efficiency right from the get go.

Audi, Subaru, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Daimler, Ferrari, Lotus, Kia, Maserati, Porsche, Suzuki, Volkswagen and Volvo
Each of the brands mentioned above are attempting their own hybrid models, and several have brought some noteworthy test models to auto shows. Several are on their way to bringing those cars to market right now, but are still a few years away from seeing them on the road in more than just 'test fleets'. Some are closer than others, while some probably have no intention of ever going hybrid unless they are forced to do so by the tighter restrictions being enforced in Europe, Asia and the US in the coming years.

Looking for more information on one of the brands above?
Either search for the brand name here on this site or use the categories below or on the sidebars.  Each of the major brands listed will have more information that I've accumulated over the years.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Prius is Top Seller in Japan for 11 Months Straight

The Japan Automobile Dealers Association noted the Prius was once again the top selling car in Japan. Helped by government incentives, the Prius has been and will continue to be the top selling car for months.

Toyota sold 35,546 units in March. That's 11 months in a row the Prius has held the top spot, which was briefly held by the Honda Insight before the third generation Prius came to market.

Sales have quadrupled in Japan this year. Toyota has sold over a quarter of a million units so far (277,485)

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

Friday, April 02, 2010

2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid MSRP

Porsche Cayenne
The price has been set on the 2011 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid. At $67,700, the Cayenne Hybrid is not going to be the most expensive hybrid on the road, but it certainly puts it in the upper reaches.

It also puts it in the mid-range of the Porsche Cayenne line-up. The Cayenne base price is $46,700, the Cayenne S is $63,700, while the Turbo comes in at a paltry $104,800.

The all wheel drive Hybrid SUV comes with a 3-liter V-6 eight speed automatic transmission.  Together with the 47 hp electric motor the engine has a combined 380 hp capable of 150 mph.

Porsche says the EPA numbers are not available yet, but the Porsche Hybrid will be 23 percent more fuel efficient than the old Cayenne. You can also 'sail' at up to 97 mph (the gas engine will shut off if you're cruising along).

The Hybrid S will be on sale in the fall.

Get Four Free Price Quotes From Yahoo! Autos Hybrid Research and Pricing at Edmunds.com

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Hyundai introduced the 2011 Sonata Hybrid at the New York Auto Show and, as they've been very quick to point out, in a lot of ways, their hybrid is better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Ford Fusion Hybrid, or the Lexus HS250h.

In a field that is starting to feel a little bit crowded, the Sonata Hybrid is going to need to stand out. With Toyota, especially, Hyundai has to overcome the decade of experience people are going to assume Toyota has over the newcomer.

Probably the biggest thing the Sonata Hybrid has over its rivals may be its battery pack.  By starting with Lithium Polymer, the Hyundai Hybrid is capable of getting 37/39 mpg (less than the Ford Fusion Hybrid, but better than the others), up to 62 mph of all electric driving,  and the most hp (compared to those others on the list).  All this while creating a car that's slightly bigger than its rivals.

How quickly that comparison will shift back depends on how soon the other car companies make the switch to the new batter packs.  But until they do, the Sonata Hybrid is certainly going to compare favorably.

Press Release follows:

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Interior
NEW YORK, March 31, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — As global automakers work out implementation timing for new fuel-efficient powertrain technologies such as gasoline direct-injection (GDI), twin-scroll turbochargers, and full-hybrid powertrains, Hyundai announced today that the all-new 2011 Hyundai Sonata is the first vehicle in the industry to offer all three technologies with the new Sonata 2.0T (turbo) and Sonata Hybrid joining the hot-selling GDI-equipped Sonata in Hyundai showrooms later this year.

At the New York Auto Show today, Hyundai unveiled its 2011 Sonata Hybrid, changing the game in hybrids with unique approaches in hybrid powertrain design, battery technology and vehicle appearance. The Sonata Hybrid is Hyundai’s first hybrid in the U.S. market.

“The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is the new kid on the block, but it’s not a follower,” says John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America. “Its full parallel hybrid configuration and breakthrough lithium polymer batteries offer a new take on traditional hybrid design, while its unique design sets it apart from the mid-size hybrid pack.”

The Hyundai-developed Hybrid Blue Drive architecture is a full parallel hybrid drive system, which can operate on an electric motor, gasoline internal combustion engine, and a combination of the two depending on driving conditions and driver demands. Hyundai’s proprietary full parallel architecture differs from the power split technology used by most competitors, allowing significant efficiency advantages at higher speeds. Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive is the first and only system using lithium polymer battery technology – leapfrogging competitive in-market nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion applications. Lithium polymer offers the benefits of lithium-ion, a technology used in laptops and cell phones, but adds robustness, power-density and package flexibility, making it ideal for automotive applications. Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive also is unique in its use of the company’s own highly efficient, compact new 6-speed transmission, modified with hybrid starter-generator, electric motor, and low-friction oil pump, which together allow the elimination of the traditional torque converter.

Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive is a new addition to a full suite of eco-focused products and technologies that Hyundai offers in its goal to be the auto industry’s global eco-leader. According to the EPA, Hyundai has led the U.S. industry in fuel economy for 2008 and 2009, and is currently the only automaker with average fleet fuel economy of more than 30 miles per gallon.

“Hyundai applies advanced technologies to vehicles to provide the best solutions for the everyday driver,” said Krafcik. “Unlike traditional hybrids that trade off highway fuel economy for higher city ratings, the Sonata Hybrid delivers best-in-class highway fuel economy, while still delivering about a 40 percent improvement in city fuel economy compared to a Sonata equipped with the Theta II GDI engine. We think this is a better balanced approach for the majority of car buyers.”

Sonata Hybrid’s projected best-in-class highway fuel economy of 39 mpg offers significant benefit to hybrid owners with highway commutes, while also offering outstanding city fuel economy of 37 mpg. Government studies have shown that the typical U.S. driver operates in a highway mode 57 percent of the time. Hyundai’s approach to deliver class-leading fuel economy in highway mode provides a unique solution in the mid-size sedan hybrid market, and differentiates Sonata Hybrid from the likes of Toyota Camry Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid. Sonata Hybrid delivers typical hybrid fuel economy gains in the city like its competitors, but also gives owners outstanding fuel economy on the highway, where these competitors fall short.

Sonata Hybrid delivers class-leading electric-vehicle operation at steady-state speeds of up to 62 miles per hour. Gasoline engine engagement depends on state of charge, acceleration and vehicle speed. Its two propulsion units develop a total output of 209 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, exceeding all mid-size competitors, and 195 lb-ft of torque. The weight-efficient architecture of the new Sonata platform, combined with the lightweight lithium polymer battery pack, make the Sonata Hybrid the lightest vehicle in the segment, at just 3,457 pounds, 263 pounds lighter than the Fusion Hybrid. Combined with Sonata’s best-in-class horsepower rating, Sonata Hybrid has a significant advantage in power-to-weight ratio, a key enabler of both performance and efficiency.

Hyundai’s proprietary parallel hybrid drive system is the heart of the Sonata Hybrid. The competition uses a power split system with a planetary-geared Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). This is where the Sonata Hybrid gains a key advantage. Competing hybrid models use electric motors that have to power a planetary gear set. By utilizing a full parallel drive system, Sonata Hybrid uses the power from the electric motor more efficiently to directly control the vehicle, allowing it to be operated at much higher speeds than the competition in EV-only mode. This technology is also a key enabler of Sonata Hybrid’s best-in-class highway fuel economy.


2011 Sonata Hybrid2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid2010 Nissan Altima Hybrid2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid2010 Lexus HS250h
Engine hp169 hp147 hp158 hp156 hp147 hp
Engine torque156 lb-ft138 lb-ft162 lb-ft136 lb-ft138 lb-ft
Electric Motor hp40.2 hp40 hp40 hp106 hp40 hp
Electric Motor torque151.2 lb-ft @ 0-1,400 rpm199 lb-ft @ 0-1,500 rpm199 lb-ft @ 0–1,500 rpm166 lb-ft138 lb-ft
Hybrid system net power output209 hp187 hp198 hp191 hp187 hp
Hybrid systemParallelPower SplitPower SplitPower SplitPower Split
Battery typeLithium PolymerNickel-Metal HydrideNickel-Metal HydrideNickel-Metal HydrideNickel-Metal Hydride
EV only operation limit62 mph42 mph42 mph47 mph42 mph
Fuel economy city/ hwy37/39 mpg(est.)33/34 mpg35/33 mpg41/36 mpg35/34 mpg
Curb wt.3,457 lb3,680 lb3,469.8 lb3,720 lb3,682 lb
Power to wt. ratio (lbs./total system power)16.5419.6817.5219.4819.69
Pass. Vol.104 cu ft101 cu ft101 cu ft101 cu ft90 cu ft

Hyundai’s Hybrid Blue Drive is a proprietary parallel hybrid drive system that runs on the already fuel-efficient 2.4-liter Theta II engine (169 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 156 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm) mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and a 30kW (151 lb-ft) electric motor for maximum fuel economy. Hyundai’s Hybrid Blue Drive has an all-electric mode and a parallel drive mode. This means the wheels are turned by power coming directly from the gasoline engine, or the electric motor, or both together, as conditions demand. This parallel hybrid drive architecture will serve as the foundation for future hybrid drive vehicles to be developed by Hyundai.

In the Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive system, the Theta II with multi-port fuel injection (MPI) operates on an Atkinson Cycle. Atkinson Cycle is a type of internal combustion engine strategy designed to dramatically increase fuel efficiency through changes in compression and power strokes in the four stroke engine. It is typically only used in hybrid systems where the high-torque electric motor boosts low-end power, which is traded off for internal combustion engine efficiency. By combining the electric motor and the Atkinson Cycle engine, the Hybrid Blue Drive system delivers best-in-class highway hybrid efficiency.

To further improve fuel economy, all of the Theta II major driveline and cooling system components have been optimized to reduce friction, while the crankcase has been filled with low friction oil. Hybrid Power Control (HPC) management software automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a halt, cutting emissions to zero. When pressure is reapplied to the accelerator pedal, the Hybrid Starter Generator (HSG) automatically restarts the engine. This control strategy assures that maximum efficiency is achieved during gentle acceleration and greater power is immediately available during full acceleration. During deceleration, braking regeneration comes into play. Sonata Hybrid also features “smart brake” technology in which braking input over-rides accelerator pedal input.

The high-tech, all-aluminum, 16-valve engine also features Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) on both camshafts and newly developed engine components to reduce friction. This optimized Theta II engine achieves 10 percent better fuel consumption over a conventional Theta II engine.

Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive uses the company’s proprietary 6-speed automatic transmission rather than a conventional hybrid’s CVT. Hyundai’s strategy involves an adaptation of the modular 6-speed transmission, replacing the torque converter with an electric motor and high-efficiency oil pump. This technique uses a traditional step-shift 6-speed transmission rather than a CVT to provide a more traditional shift feel that is preferred by customers and sometimes artificially replicated in CVT applications. This saves on cost, making the Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive system a better value. It is a more robust and elegantly simple solution to a complicated engineering challenge.

Fuel efficiency improvements are evident throughout Sonata Hybrid. For example, the top three gear ratios in the transmission have been extended to ensure the engine runs at lower RPMs, the electric motor-assisted steering system reduces demands on the engine, and low resistance tires further optimize fuel economy.

Hybrid Blue Drive is made up of the following major components:

  • An efficient 30kW electric motor delivering 151 lb-ft of torque
  • A regenerative braking system
  • An integrated starter generator that enables the engine to turn off at stops and restart automatically under acceleration
  • A breakthrough lithium polymer battery package, with 5.3 Ah of capacity at 270 volts
  • A fuel-efficient Theta II 2.4-liter engine
  • 6-speed automatic transmission with an improved efficiency electric oil pump
  • Weight-efficient architecture coupled with a low drag coefficient (.25 Cd target)
  • Electric air conditioning compressor
  • Hybrid power control unit

Sonata’s hybrid system stores its electrical charge in a 270V lithium polymer rechargeable battery (5.3Ah/270V) that surpasses existing nickel-metal hydride and pending lithium-ion applications. Lithium polymer batteries are more durable and space-efficient than other hybrid batteries. They are also more weight-efficient. The Sonata Hybrid’s battery pack weighs just 95.9 pounds versus the Camry Hybrid’s 123.9 pounds. The compact battery pack resides in the forward portion of the trunk to maximize cargo space.

Lithium Polymer Batteries vs. Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries
Compared with nickel-metal hydride batteries, lithium polymer batteries deliver the same power with 20-30 percent less weight, 40 percent less volume and 10 percent greater efficiency over the nickel-metal hydride batteries found in today’s hybrids. Lithium polymer batteries offer 1.7 times more energy density than nickel-metal hydride batteries, allowing Hyundai engineers to devote less space and weight to the battery pack. Lithium polymer batteries hold their charge 1.25 times longer. Lithium polymer batteries also are more resistant to changes in temperature, which improves cycle life. Additionally, lithium polymer’s self-discharge rate is less than a third of a nickel-metal hydride battery.

Lithium Polymer Batteries vs. Lithium-ion Batteries
Lithium polymer has significant advantages over lithium-ion, including higher energy density and lower manufacturing costs. Lithium polymer is more resistant to physical damage and can handle more charge-discharge cycles before storage capacity begins to degrade. Lithium polymer technology also offers significant advantages in thermal robustness and safety.

A key difference between traditional lithium-ion batteries and Hyundai’s lithium polymer battery solution is the overall packaging of the cell – the anode, the cathode, the electrolyte, and the encasement material. Traditional lithium-ion batteries, like those found in laptops, use what’s known as the 18650 cell format. In this format, each mass-produced cell is 18 mm. in diameter and 65 mm. tall, which is a bit larger than a “AA” battery. Each of these small metal cylinders is filled with a liquid electrolyte that facilitates the movement of lithium ions across anode and cathode, creating the battery current.

Traditional lithium-ion batteries are easy to handle, withstand mild internal pressures, and have been around in various forms since 1991. That means a manufacturing infrastructure is in place, and economies of scale are reasonably high. However, they do have several disadvantages. For example, their cylindrical shape reduces packaging efficiency and they are surprisingly complicated to manufacture since they have so many small parts. These small parts make them robust to thermal fluctuations and add significant cost and weight to the overall battery system. Cell-to-cell consistency also is extremely critical in a vehicle battery package, since the pack is only as robust as its weakest cell. Traditional lithium-ion batteries have considerable cell-to-cell variation, while Hyundai’s lithium polymer batteries deliver outstanding cell-to-cell consistency.

Lithium polymer technology uses a completely different approach. Rather than using a liquid electrolyte, which requires a robust metal casing, lithium polymer batteries use a polymer gel as the electrolyte, which allows the use of a thinner and lighter aluminum-walled encasement, or pouch. Inside each lithium polymer cell, the cathode, separator, and anode are laminated together, enabling much simpler and more reliable manufacturing. This allows the battery pack to be about 20 percent smaller than a lithium-ion battery pack, making it much easier to change the cell footprint to fit the nooks and crannies of available vehicle space.

Hyundai and its battery supplier, LG Chem, have spent hundreds of hours testing the Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive lithium polymer battery system. This testing has proven that Hyundai’s lithium polymer technology has greater thermal and mechanical stability than existing systems, meaning better safety and performance.

Another key engineering challenge for Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive has been assuring maintenance-free battery operation over the vehicle’s life – at least 10 years, and 150,000 miles – in all weather conditions. Heat is the enemy of battery cycle life. Hyundai’s thermal imaging testing shows how much cooler a lithium polymer battery is compared to today’s nickel-metal hydride battery or a conventional lithium-ion battery. Consumers will notice these advantages in improved useful life and lower maintenance costs.

Hyundai designers have taken Sonata’s fluidic sculpture design language a bit further with Sonata Hybrid, making it even more aerodynamic. The goal was a modern, eco-friendly design, with “at-a-glance” differentiation from the non-hybrid Sonata models.

  • Unique exterior design elements
    • Headlights and taillights
    • Aerodynamic bumper fascias
    • Aerodynamic rocker panels
    • Bold hexagonal grille
    • Eco-spoke wheels
    • Air dam and aero side sills
    • Hybrid Blue Drive badging
    • Exclusive hybrid paint color
  • Interior refinements
    • Supervision cluster with eco-display options
    • Unique interior color choice
    • Unique seat patterns

The Sonata Hybrid also offers drivers a way to be more engaged in fuel-efficient driving thanks to Hyundai’s Hybrid Technology Display. The Hybrid Technology Display is featured on a 4.2-inch LCD screen located between the odometer and tachometer, or is visible on the optional seven-inch navigation screen. It features the following information:

  • Driving mode
  • Energy flow within the vehicle
  • Engine and motor movement
  • Fuel level
  • Battery power levels and charge status
  • Electric vehicle mode indicator
  • Average and instant mpg

The Hybrid Technology Display’s most unique feature is an Eco Level scoring system. The high definition display acknowledges eco-focused driving with eight levels of sky color, ranging from gray to bright blue. It also accumulates points in Total Eco mode over time. An Eco Guide also provides instant fuel economy feedback.

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