Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Hyundai Motor America vows to meet the U.S. government requirement of 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km) fleet fuel economy early through a variety of measures announced here at the Los Angeles auto show today.

The strategy includes the installation of a hybrid-electric system in the next-generation Sonata midsize sedan in 2010; offering more fuel-efficient versions of the Accent subcompact and Elantra compact cars next year; and a turbocharged gasoline direct-injection version of its 4-cyl. Theta engine that will be offered in a new cross/utility vehicle, among other models.

Hyundai plans to lead all automotive brands in the U.S. in fuel economy by achieving a fleet average of 35 mpg by 2015, five years ahead of the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.’s deadline, powered by the Hyundai Blue Drive global-product strategy,” the auto maker says in a release.

Debuting here at the show is a rolling chassis showcasing Hyundai’s proprietary parallel hybrid drive system, which mates a 2.4L version of the 4-cyl. Theta mill with a 6-speed automatic transmission and 40-hp electric motor. The system can power a vehicle’s wheels from the gasoline engine, the electric motor or both, the auto maker says.

Hyundai’s Hybrid Blue Drive technology also includes a regenerative braking system; an integrated starter generator; electric air-conditioning compressor; hybrid power control unit; and lithium-polymer batteries supplied by LG Chemical Ltd.

Compared with nickel-metal hydride batteries in use in hybrid-electric vehicles today, lithium-polymer batteries are twice as energy dense and can hold a charge 20 times longer, Hyundai says.

Also, a lithium-polymer battery pack is 20% 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.”

Meanwhile, HMA says it will begin retailing “Blue” Accent and Elantra models in the U.S. next year. The cars will employ low-rolling resistance tires and revised engine calibrations as well as reduced final-drive ratios to improve fuel economy and lower emissions.

“Hyundai is focused on achieving an excellent MPG-per-dollar ratio with these models,” the auto maker says.

HMA also announces plans to eventually retail a production version of the 6-passenger HED-5 i-Mode concept CUV first shown at this year’s Geneva auto show and making its North American debut here at the show.

“The HED-5 i-Mode concept provides a glimpse into the future of travel, incorporating innovative weight-saving technologies, a modern fuel-efficient 4-cyl. direct-injection turbo and a flexible interior package,” John Krafcik, vice president-product development and strategic planning at HMA, says in a statement.

The concept was developed via partnerships with Bayer MaterialScience AG, Keiper GmbH & Co. KG and LG Electronics.

A self-healing, water-based finish from Bayer that eliminates scratches and a swiveling first-row passenger seat from engineering partner Keiper are two vehicle features, as is the lack of a B-pillar and a new sliding-door system without the typical inner and outer guide rails.

The concept CUV’s 2.0L 4-cyl. engine, dubbed the Theta Turbo GDI, features both turbocharging and gasoline direct-injection technology, which improves fuel economy 15%-20% over that of a V-6 engine, Hyundai says.

The auto maker estimates the engine’s horsepower at a maximum 268. HMA says variants of that engine will be seen in future Hyundai models in the U.S.

Additionally, Hyundai reiterates a plan to begin series production of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in 2012.

The auto maker also says it has partnered with Carbonfund.org to offset the “entire first year of emissions for all ’09 Hyundai Genesis sedans sold in the U.S.”

Under the partnership, Hyundai will help conserve permanently or reforest 3,000 acres (1,214 ha) of tropical rainforest in Tocantins, Brazil, to offset the 102,700 tons (93,170 t) of carbon dioxide an outside firm has estimated the sedans will have emitted from June-December 2008.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com