Sunday, July 12, 2009
Hyundai Elantra hybrid goes a little too far into the future
The public so heavily associates hybrid vehicles with Toyota and its Prius (and a bit with its Camry and Corolla) that it's easy to forget that other companies like Honda, Ford, and others have also come out with hybrids.
Hyundai and Kia have been criticized for being a bit late to the game, but the number-one Korea automaker has made up for its tardiness by showing up with a project worthy of an A+. And that would be the Hyundai Elantra LPI.
Here's the problem, though: the LP in LPI stands for "liquefied petroleum." LPG (for LP gas) is a commonly used fuel in South Korea, where it is cheap and considered an environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline and diesel. If you ride in taxi in Korea, it is almost certainly an LPG-powered vehicle, and there is considerable demand for an LPG-powered hybrid. Hyundai's and Kia's LPI vehicles are being touted as the first in the world.
This is supposedly even more environmentally friendly than a gasoline hybrid, but the problem is that LP gas fueling stations are so few that it is inconvenient for most people in the US. If Hyundai wants to stay in the game in the US, it needs its gasoline hybrid to hit the market soon. But if you are in Korea, take a look at LPI offerings of both Hyundai and Kia, including the Forte, the Sorrento, and others. Having driven an LPG-powered company minivan (Kia Carnival, known in the US as the Kia Sedona) for nine years, I wouldn't hesitate to buy an LPI.