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Hyundai Ioniq scores electric hat-trick

Three phase power: Australia will only get the hybrid version, but Hyundai is producing plug-in and pure electric versions of the Ioniq.

A trio of electric powertrain choices makes Hyundai's Ioniq a world first

8 Dec 2015

HYUNDAI will become the first manufacturer to offer a model powered by a choice of hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric drive, with a new Toyota Prius-baiting vehicle named the Ioniq arriving next year.

Technical detail is light at this stage, but more information is expected ahead of the model's debut in its home country early next year, followed by more public appearances at the Geneva and New York motor shows in March and an Australian arrival in the second half of 2016.

While other global regions will get the full suite of variants, for now, Australia will only be taking the hybrid, but it is understood that Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) is keen to add the PHEV version to its local line-up too, serving as a steppingstone to full electric models.

The more conventional hybrid Ioniq will touchdown next year but in the meantime, HMCA is reviewing the other two plug-in and full-electric versions.

Just one shady image of the mysterious vehicle has been released, revealing a flowing roofline, high-profile boot and strip-light head and tail-lights, but the picture does not give away if the car will be a two, three, four or five door model.

In pure electric form, the Ioniq uses a “high-capacity, ultra efficient” lithium-ion battery for zero-emissions motoring, the hybrid version combines a petrol engine with electric power, while the PHEV variant adds plug-in charging for greater electric-only flexibility.

Hyundai already offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of its Sonata mid-sized sedan in other markets, but it is likely the Ioniq technology has progressed. That would include an extended electric-only range of more than 40km and more efficient hybrid systems.

When asked about the possibility of a hybrid or electric vehicle for the Australian market, HMCA has not previously been forthcoming, but the company's public relations general manager Bill Thomas said that although the model was known to be in the pipeline, the “announcement has come as a complete surprise”.

Far from being left out in the cold, Mr Thomas explained that Australia's hot climate has been used to develop the new model, with mule test vehicles already covering kilometres on local roads.

“We knew that the vehicles were under development, actually they have been here hot weather endurance testing,” he said.

“They come into our headquarters and then disappear off. Most of the time we don't actually know where they are going.”

Mr Thomas said he believed styling would be the key to the success of the model and added that the Ioniq may have an edge in the styling stakes over its main rival – the Toyota Prius.

“It's quite a nice bit of timing where we are coming in with something a bit sleeker looking,” he said.

While the Ioniq nears production, less is known about the company's other alternative energy plans, but a replacement for the hydrogen-powered ix35 Fuel Cell is under development.

The successor will also be an SUV model but based on a platform specifically developed for a hydrogen fuel-cell drivetrain. Its name has not yet been confirmed.

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