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LPG body backs Korean hybrid

Gas goer: Hyundai's Elantra LPI Hybrid combines the fuel-saving benefits of hybrid technology with the low cost of LPG fuel.

LPG Australia calls for Hyundai and Kia to fast-track LPG hybrid models

13 Jul 2009

LPG AUSTRALIA has called for car-makers to push ahead with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) electric hybrid vehicles for Australia, saying they promise “one dollar a day motoring”.

Reacting to Hyundai’s release of the Elantra liquid petroleum injection/electric hybrid small car in South Korea last week, the Australian LPG’s industry umbrella organisation issued a statement saying such vehicles cost less to run than the newly released Toyota Prius.

Hyundai is evaluating the LPG hybrid small car for Australia, as is its sister company Kia, which is set to introduce its own version of the LPI hybrid in its Korean-market Forte (Cerato) next month.

Kia spokesman Jonathan Fletcher told GoAuto this week the company was still working on the business case for the Cerato LPI.

Hyundai senior product communications and public relations manager Ben Hershman said: “I can’t confirm that the model will come to Australia at this stage, but feasibility studies are currently underway in overseas markets where an excellent LPG refuelling infrastructure exists.”

According to LPG Australia, the Korean twins "... promise one dollar a day motoring”, or about half the fuel bill of the latest Prius.

1 center image LPG Australia’s findings are based on LPG Autogas retail price of 45 cents a litre – a little more than one-third of the price of regular unleaded petrol at about $1.30 a litre.

At these prices, both the Cerato and Elantra LPI returned 5.6L/100km of LPG in the city driving cycle, costing $7.29 a week for the average motorist travelling 15,000km a year.

This is in contrast to the $14.62 of petrol a week used in the Prius – even though the Toyota’s city cycle average of 3.9L/100km makes it the most fuel-efficient new vehicle on sale in Australia.

Assessed over 12 months, the Prius goes through $760.50 in petrol compared with the Elantra/Cerato LPI’s $378 of LPG.

The autogas advocates also point to a 10g/km lower carbon dioxide emissions rating in the LPG hybrid Korean cars when stacked against the Prius’s 89g/km result.

Developed over almost four years at a cost of $A250 million, the Elantra LPI employs a flywheel-mounted motor-generator parallel, or “mild-plus”, set-up, meaning that – unlike the Prius – the electric component cannot solely drive the car.

An 84kW 1.6-litre Gamma four-cylinder Atkinson Cycle engine converted to LPG use powers the Elantra LPI.

Aided by a 15kW electric motor, which brings the total power output to 99kW for improved acceleration, the engine drives the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission. Torque is rated at 148Nm at 4500rpm.

At 11.7 seconds, the Elantra LPI’s 0-100km/h dash takes two seconds less than the Honda Civic Hybrid that Hyundai hopes to lure buyers away from in export markets such as Europe and North America. Top speed is 188km/h.

The new-generation LG Chem-made lithium-ion polymer battery is said to be lighter, smaller, safer and more practical than the tried-and-tested nickel-metal hydride packs used in the Prius since the model’s debut in Japan at the end of 1997.

Hyundai will offer a six-year/120,000km warranty for the battery, inverter and other key electronic and electrical components in the Elantra LPI.

Other innovations include idle-stop to cut the LPG engine at idle, a regenerative braking system that stores energy that otherwise would be lost when bringing the car to a halt, and low-rolling-resistance tyres.

There is also an ‘Eco Guide’ tree icon in the instrument cluster that rewards thoughtful and more economical driving habits by sprouting “small green leaves”.

Astonishingly, at 1297kg, the Elantra LPI weighs just 2kg more than the Australian-specification SX 2.0-litre petrol automatic version.

In South Korea the Elantra LPI is available in three trim levels, with prices ranging from about $A20,194 to $22,894.

Around 15 per cent of that price is subsidised by the South Korean government’s consumption tax exemption on hybrid vehicles.

Mr Hershman revealed that Hyundai would support a similar move as a strong incentive for buyers into hybrid vehicles in Australia.

Hyundai has set a South Korean sales goal of 7500 units this year, doubling to 15,000 in 2010.

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