NEW YORK -- Hyundai's first hybrid will be in U.S. showrooms "in time for holiday shopping this year," says John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America.
Unveiling the 2011 Sonata Hybrid at the New York auto show, Krafcik said that the car features design changes from the just-introduced Sonata and uses a new hybrid powertrain architecture that is lighter than that of its rivals and holds a charge longer.
"It is not a follower," Krafcik said.
Hyundai is betting on a new battery technology that Krafcik said weighs less and gives the Sonata 1.7 times the battery charge life of competing hybrid systems.
The technology, from Korean supplier LG Chem Ltd., is lithium polymer, not the now-common lithium ion. The flat Sonata batteries resemble small vehicle license plates.
The Sonata will be the first vehicle to use LG batteries, Krafcik said. In March, LG said it will construct a $303 million battery plant in Holland, Mich., that will supply General Motors with lithium ion batteries.
The Sonata Hybrid will be produced in South Korea. Krafcik declined to reveal the planned retail price.
Michael Deitz, Hyundai Motor America's manager of product planning, said the Sonata Hybrid has design changes that differentiate it from the standard-powertrain Sonata.
"People buy a hybrid because they want to own a hybrid," he said. "We wanted to make it visually clear that this is a hybrid."
The Hybrid's front end features a large glossy black oval containing shutters that open or close to cut wind resistance. It also has a panoramic sunroof and adds chrome trim along the lower body.
The aerodynamic drag of the hybrid's body is 14 percent lower than that of the standard 2011 Sonata, Deitz said. The combined output from the hybrid's electric motor and internal-combustion engine will be 209 hp.