DETROIT – Engineering consultant FEV Engine Technology Inc. gives attendees of the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress a look at an innovative diesel hybrid-electric drivetrain that South Korean auto maker Ssangyong Motor Co. Ltd. promises will be in production in 2008.

The concept SUV displayed here uses a 2.7L I-5 turbodiesel backed by an electric motor – that acts on the engine crankshaft – in a parallel arrangement similar to that employed by Honda Motor Co. Ltd. for its hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs).

The Ssangyong/FEV concept, however, also employs an electrically driven torque converter between the electric motor and the automatic transmission “as a launch device to significantly improve launch feel and performance,” says FEV. Electric energy from regenerative braking and the electric motor is stored by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack under the rear cargo floor.

An FEV spokesman says the company and Ssangyong co-engineered the diesel HEV concept to demonstrate the optimal hybrid combination to achieve superior driving performance, fuel economy and emissions. He says the diesel HEV concept SUV enjoys 24% better fuel economy than the same vehicle powered only by the 2.7L turbodiesel I-5, yet also has markedly improved acceleration.

The concept is based on Ssangyong’s Rexton SUV, but Ssangyong says in a recent press release that the first production vehicle to use the diesel hybrid drivetrain will be the new Kyron cross/utility vehicle in 2008. The company also promises the diesel hybrid system will be adapted to “fit into all of its vehicles by 2010.”

bvisnic@wardsauto.com