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Hyundai unveils its first EV

Korean government agencies will launch a pilot program shortly using 30 of the BlueOn cars, and Hyundai plans to put 2,500 cars on sale by 2012.

The BlueOn is an electric version of the Hyundai i10 hatchback. Hyundai first showcased an all-electric i10 prototype at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
Hyundai Motors

At a ceremony on Thursday, Korean automaker Hyundai Motors unveiled the BlueOn, its first highway-legal all-electric vehicle.

The car is an electric version of the Hyundai i10 hatchback which was showcased as an electric concept car at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. The BlueOn is so named because it's a version of Hyundai's Blue Drive eco-friendly lineup that you can "switch on," according to Hyundai.

The BlueOn can be driven up to 140 kilometers (about 87 miles) on a single charge, and has a maximum speed of 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph).

The car will fully recharge from a 220-volt outlet, the Korean household standard, in six hours. It will also charge up to 80 percent capacity in 25 minutes when charged from a 380-volt fast-charging station, according to Hyundai.

Power comes from a lithium-ion polymer battery made by Korean battery maker SK Energy, which also makes similar batteries for Mitsubishi Fuso's hybrid electric vehicles. Hyundai claims its battery for the BlueOn weighs 30 percent less than a standard nickel-metal hydride battery.

The BlueOn also has a few new features not seen on most EVs currently being sold. In addition to showing charging status, the car comes equipped with a telematics system that alerts the driver to the location of the nearest recharging station. In addition, it has what Hyundai refers to as a Virtual Engine Sound System (VESS), an artificial engine sound intended to let pedestrians know the BlueOn is approaching.

Present at the unveiling ceremony was Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, who took the car for a test drive with Hyundai Vice Chairman Hyun-Soon Lee.

"Consumers' interests and demand for eco-friendly cars are rising and securing such advanced technology is critical in becoming an industry leader. Hyundai is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint and satisfying market needs," Lee said in a statement.

Hyundai will have 30 BlueOn cars in place with various Korean government agencies by October for a pilot program, with plans to produce 2,500 cars for sale to the general public by 2012. The pilot program will be used to promote awareness, as well as test Korea's charging infrastructure, according to Hyundai.

The Korean automaker estimates that it spent 40 billion won ($34 million) in research and development over a one-year period to develop the BlueOn.