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Hyundai CEO Krafcik confirms electric vehicle for US - sort of

While Hyundai has long made their intention known to avoid following the industry trend of calling on electric vehicles, CEO John Krafcik recently posted a comment on Twitter confirming that the Korean automaker will eventually market a full electric vehicle here in the US – although we don’t know when or what that vehicle might be.

Hyundai CEO John Krafcik recently posted a comment on Twitter that shed some light on the future of the Korean automaker’s zero emission programs. “Our primary zero-emission vehicle focus is fuel cell right now,” tweeted Krafcik, “but we will certainly field a BEV (battery electric vehicle) at some point.” That comment shows that there will be an EV sold by Hyundai in the future but we dont know when it will arrive, where it will be sold and what vehicle is would be based on.

Over the past few years, the majority of the automakers doing business in the United States have either introduced an electric vehicle (EV) or they have announced their intentions to offer one in the not so distant future but Hyundai has made it clear that they wanted to take a different direction to offer a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV). Rather than opting for a production electric vehicle - following in the footsteps of the Nissan Leaf, the Ford Focus, the Toyota RAV4 EV and Chevy Volt – Hyundai has been working on a hydrogen powered vehicle that would offer zero emission driving without the high price of the advanced battery technology. Of course, these hydrogen vehicles would have their own unique costs and stumbling points with the biggest current problem being the lack of hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Because of the simple fact that it isn’t that easy for the average commuter to run out and buy a bunch of hydrogen, it could be some time before the hydrogen powered Hyundai hits dealerships.

This unknown period of time is a problem for Hyundai because in the very distant future, the state of California (and possibly other states) will require all of the automakers doing business in their state to offer some sort of ZEV. Hyundai might have to come up with something else while they wait for hydrogen refilling stations to spring up and it seems like common sense that the Korean automaker would do the same thing that so many others have done, offering a “normal” battery powered electric vehicle (BEV).

Even though Hyundai has openly talked about their hydrogen efforts while introducing gas-electric hybrid versions of the Sonata and the Elantra here in the United States while downplaying the importance of pure electric vehicles, the company recently introduced the all-electric BlueOn compact on their local market. The BlueOn is a four door hatchback that is powered by a 16.4kWh lithium polymer battery that affords the little EV a range of 90 miles on a single charge.

Sounds like a vehicle that would fit right into the current US EV market, right? Unfortunately for Hyundai, the details of the Korean EV contain some bad news for American buyers as well.

The Hyundai BlueOn is only capable of reaching speeds of roughly 80 miles per hour and hitting 60mph from a stop takes the little hatch a painful 13.1 seconds. Even though most EV buyers aren’t worried about winning a lot of races, the BlueOn would be brutally slow by American standards and that would make it a tough sell. The company could modify the BlueOn drivetrain to offer a slightly higher top speed (something around 91mph would likely be better) and improved acceleration but both of those tuning efforts would almost certainly cut into the range capabilities of the all electric drivetrain. This means that Hyundai would most likely have to design some sort of modified version of the BlueOn drivetrain that would offer comparable range to the other EVs currently sold in the US with performance measures that are also on par with the likes of the Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus EV.

Fortunately, the fact that Hyundai already offers a BEV in their domestic market is proof that the company has people on their payroll who know how to design an electric drivetrain so while they may not be able to sell the BlueOn here in the States – they already have technology on which to base something like an electric Elantra in order to meet California’s growing vehicle emission standards.

Source: The Detroit Bureau