Fuel worry for hybrids
Our LPG may hurt Hyundai’s green car, write NEIL McDONALD and NEIL DOWLING
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.