Could the Blue-Will kill the green Prius?
Hyundai has announced that its first ever plug-in hybrid concept will make its U.S. debut at next week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The concept is called the Blue-Will and was shown first at the Seoul Auto Show in March of last year. The car has a long list of technology that is new for the Korean automaker.
The Blue-Will will feature lithium-ion-polymer batteries that will allow the car to have a range of 40 miles in full electric mode. After the 134-hp electric motor runs out of juice, a 152-hp, 1.6-liter direct-injection four-cylinder will help power the car. Hyundai claims the Blue-Will will achieve 55 mpg in standard hybrid mode and 106 mpg plug-in mode. A continuously variable transmission, which is now the de-facto transmission for fuel efficient cars, is included.
Much like the Prius, the Blue-Will will have solar panels mounted on its panoramic glass roof to help cool the cabin and recharge the vehicles batteries. The dye-sensitized solar cells will not hinder visibility as you look out the panoramic roof.
An interesting new innovation included in the Blue-Will is a thermal generator that will convert hot exhaust gasses into electricity. The extra electricity generated will help power auxiliary systems. Hyundai has also designed the brake pads and calipers to exhibit less drag on the rotors which will improve efficiency. Special attention has been also paid to the Blue-Will’s under-body. A cover that runs the length under the car reduces aerodynamic drag. To increase cargo space Hyundai has tucked the gas tank under the rear seats.
The Blue-Will’s design is reminiscent of a Mazda 3 and is described by Hyundai as “Eco-sleek.” Much like the Mazda, the Blue-Will has a grinning grill and wedge-like shape. Concept car features like carbon-fiber reinforced plastics and nano composites will unlikely be on the production model.
This concept may have Toyota and GM worried. Both will beat Hyundai to the market place with their own plug-in hybrids, but the days of not taking Hyundai serious are over. The South Korean automaker has had a series of hits with its popular Genesis coupe and sedan. Hyundai could have the advantage of also receiving battery technology cheaper than its competitors. GM is using LG chem, a South Korean company, to supply the lithium-ion cells for the Volt. Could Hyundai get battery components for a lower price?
The strategy for Hyundai has been to undercut the competition on price. It will be interesting to see if the Korean company can bring a plug-in hybrid to market at a competitive price point. The car could enter production as soon as 2011.