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Hyundai: Drive train key to more mpg

Automotive New reports on new transmissions from Hyundai.

Automotive News

SEOUL -- Hyundai Motor Co. says it can improve the mileage of its U.S. fleet with lighter vehicles, gasoline direct injection and six- and eight-speed automatic transmissions.

By 2010, the South Korean automaker wants to make its fleet 5 percent lighter on average compared with 2007, partly by using new materials.

"We have the technology, but some of it we couldn't justify because of the cost," Lee Hyun-soon, Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group's R&D chief, said here. "But because of high oil prices, we can utilize more technology to improve our fuel economy.

"The biggest improvements will come from power train, engine, and transmissions."

Hyundai trails only Toyota and Honda in the U.S. corporate average fuel economy rankings. Hyundai averages about 30 mpg for cars and 25 mpg for light trucks, according to consultant CSM Worldwide.

Under new U.S. CAFE standards, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expects Hyundai to have targets of about 37.5 mpg for cars and 31.0 mpg for trucks by 2015.

To improve mileage, Hyundai will use more gasoline direct-injection engines, turbochargers with direct injection and six- and eight-speed automatic transmissions, Lee said.

"Even with midsized and smaller vehicles, we will use a six-speed automatic gearbox to improve the fuel economy," Lee said.

Hyundai doesn't have any eight-speed automatics now, but they will be launched in two years in the high-end Genesis and Equus sedans, Lee said.

The eight-speed will be supplied by Hyundai Powertech, a fully owned subsidiary. The gearbox will replace transmissions sourced from ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Aisin Seiki Co.

Direct injection will first appear in 2010 in 2.4-liter and 3.5-liter engines, Lee said. Turbocharged direct injection will arrive a year later.

Hyundai plans to shed vehicle weight by using more plastic, aluminum and high-tensile sheet metal. The lighter materials will be employed in doors, trunk lids, roofs, hoods and underbodies.

"Costwise, it won't benefit us because all these new materials cost higher than conventional materials," Lee said. "But we can save fuel and at the same time get better performance."

Hyundai has no plans for electric vehicles, he added.

"The usage of that kind of 100 percent electric vehicle will be very, very limited," Lee said. "We are talking about a huge amount of batteries sitting in the car. Who can afford that?"

(Source: Automotive News)