At the 2008 Paris Motor Show, Hyundai displayed a hybrid version of its Santa Fe small SUV. This hybrid powertrain uses a 2.4-liter gas engine complemented by a 40 horsepower electric motor that generates 151 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission delivers this combined power to the wheels. But the real innovation in Hyundai's hybrid system is the use of a 270 volt lithium polymer battery pack. Hyundai says that lithium polymer has greater energy density than lithium ion, can take more recharging cycles, and is cheaper to manufacture. In the Santa Fe Hybrid, this system returns 38 miles per gallon fuel economy.
The Santa Fe Hybrid demonstrates a hybrid powertrain that has been under development since 1999, although Hyundai introduced its current form in 2004. This hybrid system uses idle-stop to save gas, and recaptures energy from braking to recharge the battery. Hyundai intends to market its first hybrid, an Elantra, in Korea next year. No word on if or when Hyundai will make a hybrid available in the U.S.