Hyundai to refocus on electric cars to beat business blues

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Hyundai has announced plans to rapidly roll out new all-electric models as the giant Korean car maker looks to explore new tech in the pursuit of more stable profits. Earlier this year, Hyundai said that its second quarter profits had slumped by 24 per cent, because of political instability and uncertainty surrounding the situation on the Korean peninsula, and especially South Korea’s relationship with the United States. Hyundai has also previously been criticised by industry analysts for being too reliant on conventional saloons in the US market, and not concentrating enough on the SUV boom.

The new Kona small crossover, a rival to the big-selling likes of the RenaultCaptur and Nissan Juke, is part of Hyundai’s big (and small, so to speak) SUV push, and the company has now confirmed that there will be an electric version of the new car, with a 390km one-charge range, on sale next year. “We’re strengthening our eco-friendly car strategy, centring on electric vehicles,” Executive Vice President Lee Kwang-guk told a news conference in Korea.

The other big electric vehicle announcement from Hyundai was that of an all-electric model of its new Genesis luxury car lineup, which should boast a 500km one-charge range, and is slated to go on sale by 2021. Genesis is essentially Hyundai’s Lexus rival, and the brand is not yet on sale here, although Hyundai’s Irish importer is known to be keen to roll out the badge to Irish customers if the conditions and model lineup were suitable. Hyundai in Ireland has already had some success with electric vehicles – its recently-launched Ioniq has sold 275 units so far this year, with 207 of them being the battery only model, while 68 have been the hybrid version.

Hyundai also said that it would add three more plugin hybrid vehicles to its lineup, although it did not elaborate on which models they would be. It is likely that the next-generation Santa Fe SUV and the big-selling Tucson will be in line for part-electrification soon, though.

The Korean car maker, currently the world’s fifth-biggest automotive brand, and still with the best-selling model in the Irish market (the Tucson, again so far this year) is also continuing its push on the hydrogen vehicle front. While hydrogen power still has many detractors (no less than Tesla’s Elon Musk, who has previously said that using electricity to make hydrogen which is then used to make more electricity is foolish) the Koreans are not alone – Toyota, GM, Honda, and Mercedes all see hydrogen power as potentially fruitful. Hyundai has shown a concept version of its next-generation FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) which promises major gains in performance compared to the ix35-based fuel cell cars that it has been making and leasing in small numbers for the past few years. The new car, which looks very much like a slightly larger Kona, boasts a 163hp electric motor powered by a a fuel cell that is said to be nine per cent more efficient than that of the old ix35 model’s, with a tank range of as much as 800km. It’s also said to be much more durable and can be started in temperatures as low as -30-degrees Celsius.

Even so, many analysts fear that Hyundai is barking up the wrong, or at least too early a tree with hydrogen, with expectations that the company will have to wait until at least 2035 before it sees any significant return on hydrogen investment, and that it should concentrate on electric cars until then. In spite of all of Hyundai’s efforts in the area, there are still just ten hydrogen filling stations in South Korea, and the ix35 FCEV has been dramatically out-sold around the world by Toyota’s Mirai saloon.

“With exceptional efficiency, serene styling, and uncompromised performance, our next generation fuel cell SUV is the true epitome of an eco-friendly vehicle of the future. Hyundai Motor will take lead in developing and producing green energy vehicles that would ultimately complement a near-zero emission society” said Lee Ki-sang, Senior Vice President of Hyundai Motor Group’s Eco Technology Centre.

A production version of the new hydrogen SUV, along with its name, will be revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next year.

Source: Irish Times

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