Fuel worry for hy­brids

Our LPG may hurt Hyundai’s green car, write NEIL McDON­ALD and NEIL DOWL­ING

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

AUS­TRALIA’S cu­ri­ous LPG blend could thwart plans for two hy­brid hope­fuls from South Korea. Hyundai and Kia have launched LPG hy­brids in their home mar­kets within weeks of each other, but ex­ports to Aus­tralia are be­ing ham­pered by the higher ben­z­ine con­tent of our LPG.

Kia says its LPG Cerato sedan could cost less than $30,000, would un­der­cut the com­ing Honda In­sight hy­brid hatch and be up to $10,000 cheaper than the Toy­ota Prius.

The Kia Cerato LPI (liq­ue­fied petroleum in­jec­tion) and Hyundai Elantra LPI hy­brids have gone on sale in South Korea.

The fact both com­pa­nies are do­ing LPI hy­brids is no sur­prise, be­cause Hyundai has a 39 per cent stake in Kia and the pair share tech­nol­ogy.

The Cerato and Elantra use the same 84kW, 1.6-litre, four-cylin­der petrol en­gine mated to a 15kW elec­tric mo­tor and con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

The cars pro­duce only 99g/km of CO2, and fuel econ­omy is 5.6 litres/ 100km.

Kia says it is the world’s first LPG-hy­brid pro­duc­tion car and is us­ing it as a step­ping stone to fuel cells.

Kia Aus­tralia’s Jonathan Fletcher says the com­pany plans to test a Cerato hy­brid later this year to see how it op­er­ates on Aus­tralia’s LPG.

Hyundai spokesman Ben Her­sh­man says its ver­sion is ‘‘still in the fea­si­bil­ity study stage’’.

‘‘The LPG mix is dif­fer­ent and this will be part of the eval­u­a­tion process,’’ he says.

Her­sh­man does not ex­pect the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of the com­pany’s diesels to hurt the prospects of an LPG hy­brid.

‘‘Part of our

fea­si­bil­ity study in­volves looking care­fully at how the LPI hy­brid might fit into the to­tal pow­er­train of­fer­ings,’’ he says.

Un­like Kia, Her­sh­man will not be drawn on pric­ing, which he says is part of the study.

Both com­pa­nies be­lieve there is a great op­por­tu­nity for LPG hy­brids here be­cause of Aus­tralia’s abun­dant, low-cost sup­ply.

‘‘There are hur­dles to get it into Aus­tralia,’’ Fletcher says. ‘‘Aus­tralia is a small mar­ket and we are a right-hand drive mar­ket, so ho­molo­ga­tion may take time.

‘‘We have to as­sure our­selves the car is suit­able for our LPG qual­ity.

‘‘In the best-case sce­nario, it could take as lit­tle as six months to get the car ready for Aus­tralia.’’

The hy­brids use lithium-poly­mer bat­ter­ies, a first for a masspro­duc­tion car with an au­to­matic.

The drive sys­tem is sim­i­lar to Honda’s In­te­grated Mo­tor As­sist in that the elec­tric mo­tor helps the petrol en­gine. They can­not be driven purely on elec­tric power.

The Korean cars’ en­gines au­to­mat­i­cally shut down when the cars are sta­tion­ary and restart when the driver pushes the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

Kia claims the Cerato LPI will ac­cel­er­ate to 100km/h in 11.7 sec­onds com­pared with 12 sec­onds for the con­ven­tional 1.6-litre.

Based on travel of 20,000km a year, own­ers could save about $1300 a year in fuel over a con­ven­tional Cerato or Elantra.

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