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Hybrids to play supporting role for Hyundai

Green machine: The electrified Hyundai Santa Fe will join the rest of the range in the second half of 2021.

EVs and FCEVs the priority as looming Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid adds sporting flavour

5 Jan 2021

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) says its forthcoming hybrid models are intended to be a support act to its headline-grabbers – the Ioniq 5 electric vehicle (EV) and Nexo fuel-cell EV (FCEV) – but with a performance twist.


With Toyota currently dominating the hybrid space with its big-selling RAV4, Australia’s third-most popular brand believes that an opportunity exists for Hyundai to be a force in the EV and FCEV sphere.


In an interview with GoAuto, HMCA general manager of product planning Andrew Tuitahi confirmed that having hybrid as a complementary story to electric cars is where HMCA sees itself forging leadership among the mainstream brands.


“The technology story that we’re bringing forward focuses on the battery-electric cars – the upcoming Ioniqs,” he said. “Hybrid gives us a little bit of that story but mostly it’s about an all-wheel-drive petrol that’s got good power and torque.”


The first new hybrid to arrive is Santa Fe (due second half of 2021), combining a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder with a 44kW electric motor, a six-speed torque-converter automatic and a proper driveshaft to the rear.


Preliminary combined power output is only 169kW but Santa Fe Hybrid’s real-world performance is apparently the clincher.


“Driveability – that’s gonna be the trick,” Mr Tuitahi said.


“You jump in that 1.6 turbo with the electric motor and you drive that car, it’s amazing. You’ve got turbo torque and you’ve got electric torque … with a level of petrol performance we’ve never had in Santa Fe.


“When we evaluated (Santa Fe Hybrid), we thought we have a really strong advantage over some of the hybrid powertrains that Toyota offers that are naturally aspirated.


“Globally, there’s plug-in and conventional (Santa Fe) Hybrid, same fundamental powertrain. We’re focusing on the Hybrid (because) plug-in is an additional cost.


“We’ve crunched the numbers, looked at what people want, what people are buying, what their understanding is between a plug-in hybrid and full battery electric.


“And we really think the opportunity for us with Santa Fe centres around that higher-output petrol AWD that we’re missing at the moment.


“Hybrid fills that gap nicely.”


Mr Tuitahi also revealed that a hybrid version of the forthcoming all-new Tucson remains under investigation but is unconfirmed for Australia.


“There are challenges with Tucson because it’s (manufactured) dual factory – one in the Czech Republic, one in South Korea,” he said. “So the other major right-hand-drive markets that take a hybrid version of Tucson are sourcing from the European factory.


“For us, it makes it a little bit difficult. European Tucson is also a shorter wheelbase (2680mm versus 2755mm, and 130mm shorter overall) so you start throwing a few things into the mix there with import duties, increased freight, different wheelbase, trading in Euros. It makes it a lot more complex relative to Santa Fe Hybrid (which is sourced from Korea).


“We’re looking at solutions for what we can do with Tucson Hybrid but we don’t have any concrete plans yet.


Mr Tuitahi believes that hybridisation of Hyundai’s model range will be inevitable moving forward.


“Every model is on the table for a future hybrid and we’re looking at what we can do,” he said. “I couldn’t say that we could mirror Toyota’s strategy but I think where we have a strength is that we have hybrid technology that can be implemented, but we also have some incredible battery-electric cars already in the market that (Toyota) can’t deliver.”


Further down the track, Mr Tuitahi said that there is a greater performance story waiting to unfold.


“Our hope is there will be an N or an N-Line of every model in our line-up. With the way emissions are going globally, that story of N and ‘eco’ and environmentally friendly powertrains, ultimately they have to converge.


“Electric immediately means performance and it’s a good way to add performance to cars.”


Year-to-date in 2020 (Jan-Nov), the facelifted Hyundai Ioniq – offered in Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and Electric versions – has sold 498 units, just six cars shy of the same period in 2019 (504 units).

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