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Hyundai plans Elantra hybrid for Korea in '09
Gary Anglebrandt | 2008/6/25

SEOUL --  Hyundai Motor Co. plans to launch a hybrid version of the Elantra sedan next year in Korea.

The Avante, the Elantra's name in Korea, will be the first hybrid vehicle to be produced, the company said in a press release.

The Avante hybrid is powered by liquefied petroleum gas, which is mainly propane or a mix of propane and butane. Liquefied petroleum gas is an inexpensive fuel used in China, Australia and some European countries, such as Italy.

Hyundai plans a gasoline hybrid in 2010 and larger hybrid vehicles later.

Hybrids use an internal combustion engine and one or more electric motors to power the wheels. The Avante will use lithium ion batteries, which are lighter and more powerful than nickel-metal hydride batteries used in the Toyota Prius hybrid.

Hyundai predicts hybrid sales of at least 50,000 in the first full year of sales in Korea. Exports could begin as soon as 2010.

So far, only next year's domestic launch has been announced. Plans also are in the works for a fuel cell car to be launched in 2012. Fuel cell cars are powered by electricity produced on board with hydrogen fuel.

Since 2004, Hyundai has supplied about 3,000 hybrid versions of its Getz and Accent small cars to government fleets as part of a testing program. Apart from that, Hyundai usually points to the government as a problem.

Korea lacks tax benefits for consumers who buy hybrids, but Hyundai expects the tax situation to change next year.

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