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Hyundai Debuts Sonata Hybrid at New York Show

The Sonata Hybrid system. Click to enlarge.

As promised (earlier post), Hyundai unveiled the Sonata Hybrid at the New York International Auto Show. The company also introduced a new turbocharged version of the Sonata, the 2.0T. The Sonata Hybrid is Hyundai’s first hybrid in the US market.

The Hyundai-developed Hybrid Blue Drive architecture in the Sonata Hybrid is a proprietary full parallel hybrid drive system combining the 2.4-liter Theta II engine (169 hp/126 kW at 6,000 rpm and 156 lb-ft/212 N·m of torque at 4,500 rpm); a 6-speed automatic transmission; a 30 kW (151 lb-ft/205 N·m) electric motor; and a lithium-polymer battery pack. Hyundai’s Hybrid Blue Drive has an all-electric mode and a parallel drive mode.

This means the wheels are turned by power coming directly from the gasoline engine, or the electric motor, or both together, as conditions demand. This parallel hybrid drive architecture will serve as the foundation for future hybrid drive vehicles to be developed by Hyundai.

Unlike traditional [power-split] hybrids that trade off highway fuel economy for higher city ratings, the Sonata Hybrid delivers best-in-class highway fuel economy, while still delivering about a 40 percent improvement in city fuel economy compared to a Sonata equipped with the Theta II GDI engine. We think this is a better balanced approach for the majority of car buyers.

—John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive
  • 30kW, 151 lb-ft electric motor
  • Regenerative braking system
  • Integrated starter generator
  • lithium polymer battery pack (5.3 Ah, 270V)
  • Theta II 2.4-liter engine
  • 6-speed automatic transmission with an improved efficiency electric oil pump
  • Weight-efficient architecture coupled with a low drag coefficient (.25 Cd target)
  • Electric air conditioning compressor
  • Hybrid power control unit
  • Sonatahybrid2
    Click to enlarge.

    Power-split hybrid systems with a planetary-geared Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) use electric motors that have to power the planetary gear set. The full parallel drive system in the Sonata Hybrid uses the power from the electric motor more efficiently, Hyundai says, to directly control the vehicle, allowing it to be operated at much higher speeds than the competition in EV-only mode. This technology is also a key enabler of Sonata Hybrid’s highway fuel economy.

    The Sonata Hybrid. Click to enlarge.

    The Sonata Hybrid will offer projected highway fuel economy of 39 mpg US (6.0 L/100km) and city fuel economy of 37 mpg (6.4 L/100km). The Sonata Hybrid can deliver electric drive operation at steady-state speeds of up to 62 mph (100 km/h). Gasoline engine engagement depends on state of charge, acceleration and vehicle speed. Its two propulsion units develop a total output of 209 hp (156 kW) at 6,000 rpm, exceeding all mid-size competitors, and 195 lb-ft (264 N·m) of torque.

    The weight-efficient architecture of the new Sonata platform, combined with the lightweight lithium polymer battery pack, make the Sonata Hybrid the lightest vehicle in the segment, at just 3,457 pounds, 263 pounds lighter than the Fusion Hybrid. Combined with Sonata’s best-in-class horsepower rating, Sonata Hybrid has a significant advantage in power-to-weight ratio, a key enabler of both performance and efficiency, Hyundai notes.

    Comparison of Mid-size Hybrid Sedans
      2011 Sonata 2011 Camry 2010 Altima 2010 Fusion 2010 Lexus HS250h
    Displacement [L] 2.4 2.4 2.5 2.5 2.4
    Engine power [hp] 169 147 158 156 147
    Engine torque [lb-ft] 156 138 162 136 138
    E-Motor power [hp] 40.2 40 40 106 40
    E-motor torque [lb-ft] 151.2 199 199 166 138
    System net power [hp] 209 187 198 191 187
    Hybrid system Parallel Power split Power split Power split Power split
    Trans. 6-speed CVT CVT CVT CVT
    Battery type Li-poly NiMH NiMH NiMH NiMH
    Electric operation limit [mph] 62 42 42 47 42
    Fuel econ. [mpg US cty/hwy] 37/39 (est.) 33/34 35/33 41/36 35/34
    Curb weight [lbs] 3,457 3,680 3,470 3,720 3,682
    Wt. to power ratio [lbs/hp] 16.54 19.68 17.52 19.48 19.69
    Pass vol. [cu. ft.] 104 101 101 101 90

    Engine. In the Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive system, the Theta II with multi-port fuel injection (MPI) operates on an Atkinson Cycle. To further improve fuel economy, all of the Theta II major driveline and cooling system components have been optimized to reduce friction, while the crankcase has been filled with low friction oil.

    Hybrid Power Control (HPC) management software automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a halt, cutting emissions to zero. When pressure is reapplied to the accelerator pedal, the Hybrid Starter Generator (HSG) automatically restarts the engine. This control strategy assures that maximum efficiency is achieved during gentle acceleration and greater power is immediately available during full acceleration. During deceleration, braking regeneration comes into play. Sonata Hybrid also features “smart brake” technology in which braking input over-rides accelerator pedal input.

    The high-tech, all-aluminum, 16-valve engine also features Continuously Variable Valve Timing (CVVT) on both camshafts and newly developed engine components to reduce friction. This optimized Theta II engine achieves 10% better fuel consumption over a conventional Theta II engine.

    Transmission. Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive uses the company’s proprietary 6-speed automatic transmission rather than a conventional hybrid’s CVT. Hyundai’s strategy involves an adaptation of the modular 6-speed transmission, replacing the torque converter with an electric motor and high-efficiency oil pump. This technique uses a traditional step-shift 6-speed transmission rather than a CVT to provide a more traditional shift feel that is preferred by customers and sometimes artificially replicated in CVT applications. This saves on cost, making the Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive system a better value. It is a more robust and elegantly simple solution to a complicated engineering challenge, Hyundai says.

    The top three gear ratios in the transmission have been extended to ensure the engine runs at lower RPMs, the electric motor-assisted steering system reduces demands on the engine, and low resistance tires further optimize fuel economy.

    Li-poly battery pack. Sonata’s hybrid system stores its electrical charge in a 34 kW lithium polymer rechargeable battery (5.3Ah/270V) from LG Chem. The Sonata Hybrid’s battery pack weighs just 95.9 pounds versus the Camry Hybrid’s 123.9 pounds. The compact battery pack resides in the forward portion of the trunk to maximize cargo space.

    Compared with nickel-metal hydride batteries, lithium polymer batteries deliver the same power with 20-30% less weight, 40% less volume and 10% greater efficiency over the nickel-metal hydride batteries found in today’s hybrids. Lithium polymer batteries offer 1.7 times more energy density than nickel-metal hydride batteries, allowing Hyundai engineers to devote less space and weight to the battery pack. Lithium polymer batteries hold their charge 1.25 times longer. Lithium polymer batteries also are more resistant to changes in temperature, which improves cycle life. Additionally, lithium polymer’s self-discharge rate is less than a third of a nickel-metal hydride battery.

    Lithium-polymer has significant advantages over other lithium-ion approaches, including higher energy density and lower manufacturing costs, Hyundai says. Lithium polymer is more resistant to physical damage and can handle more charge-discharge cycles before storage capacity begins to degrade. Lithium polymer technology also offers significant advantages in thermal robustness and safety.

    Another key engineering challenge for Hyundai Hybrid Blue Drive has been assuring maintenance-free battery operation over the vehicle’s life—at least 10 years, and 150,000 miles—in all weather conditions. Hyundai’s thermal imaging testing shows how much cooler a lithium polymer battery is compared to today’s nickel-metal hydride battery or a conventional lithium-ion battery.


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