Heated hybrid debate

Hyundai says Toyota's hybrid technology is out of date.
Hyundai says Toyota's hybrid technology is out of date.

HYUNDAI says Toyota's hybrid technology is out of date and that it has developed a superior petrol-electric system.

The Korean car maker will in December launch its first hybrid model, the Sonata Hybrid, in its first overseas market, the US.

It claims it uses the world's first parallel type hybrid system.

Toyota is the world's leading manufacturer of hybrid vehicles with success that has prompted once critical rivals to develop their own hybrids.

But Hyundai says its Japanese rival has lost the leadership in the technology because many of its components have aged, while its hybrids are still too thirsty when driving at higher speeds.

“Toyota has (also) invested so much in it (the Prius technology) that they can't get away for a while from nickel-metal hydride (batteries),” said Dr Woong-chul Yang, president of the Hyundai Kia Motors research and development division.

“They are less efficient, more heavy (than the batteries used in our hybrid).

“We are the first to go with lithium-polymer in a hybrid, which are slightly different to lithium-ion batteries but are safer without losing the performance.

“There are two deficiencies with hybrids (such as the Prius). One is the highway drive: it is less fuel efficient than a regular car because of a lot of mass and a lot of friction.

“The second deficiency is that acceleration – it is not fun. There's the electric CVT (continuously variable transmission) feeling.

“It's not a fun to drive (vehicle).

“At high speed, the Prius's (fuel efficiency) is worse than a regular car. Our car is better than regular cars. We have better efficiency on the highway, and we also have a six-speed transmission that has a more dynamic feeling.”

Hyundai said the Sonata Hybrid – the petrol-electric version of the car called i45 in Australia – achieved 40 miles per gallon on the highway (about 5.9L/100km).

This gives it class-leading honours for highway consumption against US rivals that include the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid, although it's still shy of many modern diesel engines.

He said that while the Japanese brand's Hybrid Synergy System employed two large electric motors – one to drive the front wheels, one to generate electricity – the Korean car maker's system features just one electric motor with a small starter generator in conjunction with a petrol engine.

Hyundai's system includes a large clutch that engages and disengages to allow for engine-only mode, electric-only mode, or combined. –

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