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First Look: Kia reveals LPG hybrid small car

Bright spark: The LPG hybrid Cerato should be cheap to run.

Hybrid LPG Kia Cerato revealed in South Korea, but Australian exports doubtful

30 Mar 2009

AN LPG hybrid version of the Kia’s Cerato small car was unveiled in Seoul last Friday.

Hyundai-owned Kia Motors plan to launch the green version of the car, called the Forte LPI Hybrid in South Korea, this August.

It will be introduced one month after a Hyundai LPG hybrid version of the Elantra, which uses the same technology.

While the prospect of combining hybrid fuel saving with the cheap fuel price and relative greenness of LPG is a mouthwatering prospect for Australian motorists, it is not yet clear whether either version of the car will come here.

Kia Australia spokesman Jonathan Fletcher said the vehicle was developed for the South Korean market.

“The vehicle is for the domestic market and we don’t know whether it is going to be exported anywhere,” he said.

Mr Fletcher said Kia Australia had already indicated to Kia senior management in Seoul that it would be interested in evaluating any environmentally-friendly vehicles that will roll out during the next few years.

Hyundai Australia spokesman Ben Hershman said the company would like to bring the economical Elantra hybrid here, but nothing has been confirmed.

17 center imageLeft: Hyundai Elantra LPI Hybrid.

“We are interested, but we are taking it step by step,” he said.

“We are talking to head office, but we have to wait for more information.” The biggest sticking point for the Elantra hybrid is that it is currently only being produced in left-hand drive, which will make it more difficult for Hyundai Australia to source.

It is the same problem that is currently preventing Hyundai Australia from importing the rear-drive Genesis coupe.

One positive is that the standard Elantra is produced in right-hand drive which could make it easier for Hyundai Australia to push for a right-hook Elantra hybrid than would normally be the case.

Kia Motors said the LPG hybrid Cerato was the first model to be launched under the Eco Dynamics sub-brand, which will be used to market environmentally focused models.

LPG is a popular fuel in South Korea, especially for commercial vehicles, with 15 per cent of new vehicles able to run on the fuel.

Kia says this car will be the first in the world (apart from the Hyundai version) to use lithium polymer battery technology.

This claim does not take into account the evMe model now being produced by Armidale, NSW, company Energetique which uses a lithium polymer battery pack for its Mazda2-based electric car.

Kia says this type of battery stores more power and takes up less space than nickel metal hydride batteries used in conventional hybrids.

Kia also mentioned on Friday that it is planning a mid-sized hybrid model, most likely based on the Magentis sedan, and is on track to introduce a fuel cell vehicle in 2012.

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