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Hyundai, Kia divide roles in eco cars

Hyundai to focus on hybrids, Kia on electric vehicles


Hyundai Motor Group plans to carry out a role-sharing between Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors in developing eco-friendly cars.

Hyundai Motor will take on developing models of “plug-in hybrids,” which utilize rechargeable batteries, and hydrogen-powered “fuel cell vehicles,” group vice chairman Yang Woong-chul said.

He said Kia Motors will mainly focus on “electric drive vehicles” which use electric motors or traction motors for propulsion.

“Kia is set to launch sales of the TAM, an electric powered vehicle, as early as later this year,” he said. “We have the yearly sales target of 2,000 units and are considering exporting the vehicle.”

The project has been unveiled during the group executive’s meeting with reporters at the Frankfurt Motor Show over the weekend.

While Hyundai and Kia have joined the growing market for hybrid electric vehicles later than rivals, the hybrid Sonata (of Hyundai Motor) and K5 (of Kia Motors) come with significant improvements to existing hybrid automobiles to give them an edge in the market.

In addition to using lithium polymer battery packs, Hyundai and Kia have given their first gasoline-electric hybrid cars a number of features to gain an edge over the competition.

The Hyundai Sonata and Kia K5 hybrid vehicles are fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission developed specifically for hybrid electric vehicles.

“Unlike hybrid electric vehicles from competitors that are commonly fitted with continuous transmission, the specially designed six-speed automatic transmission allows the vehicle to respond more dynamically,” a Hyundai spokesman said.

He also said the two automakers were able to provide a smoother driving experience by using the electric motor to absorb gearshift shock.

The hybrid electric versions of the two sedans have also been given design changes to differentiate them from their internal combustion engine cousins.

“In the Sonata hybrid, Hyundai’s design identity of ‘fluidic sculpture’ has been maintained, but the vehicle was given a hexagonal radiator grill to give the car a modern but eco-friendly image,” a Hyundai official said.

“The headlamps have been given white LED position lamps to highlight the eco-friendly image, while the rear lamps have been designed for a more three dimensional feel.”

Kia Motors’ hybrid-version of the K5, or Optima in the U.S., was registered in the Guinness Book of Records by recently posting about 27.5 kilometers per liter in fuel efficiency.

Starting Aug. 26, the automaker carried out a challenge driving of the sedan for 12,710 kilometers for 16 days across 48 states.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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