Hyundai celebrates 30 years of eco-centric innovation

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You may not know it, but Hyundai is actually one of the earliest proponents of eco-friendly vehicles in the entire automotive world, building their first pure electric vehicle (EV), the Hyundai Sonata Electric concept, in 1991.

From EVs to plug-in hybrids, to fuel cell-powered cars, the South Korean carmaker has stayed at the forefront of making vehicles that are kinder to the environment for 30 years already.

Below are some of its most impactful environmental efforts within that span of time.

1990s (EVs)

Hyundai made its earliest efforts in the development of EVs in the early 1990s with the aforementioned Hyundai Sonata concept.

Powered by a lead-acid battery, the car delivered an all-electric range of 70 kms, and a top speed of 60 kph. To be sure, these were already remarkable performance numbers back then for an EV.

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Hyundai built more electric concepts in the succeeding years, making sure to improve upon their lead-acid battery EV with every iteration. In 1992, the brand unveiled an Excel-based EV that could do 100 kms and 120 kph top speed. Two years later, another EV was revealed, this one based on the Scoupe, producing a range of 140 kms and top speed of 120 kph.

The 90s were also the decade that Hyundai started dabbling in hybrid technology, debuting its first hybrid/electric offering, the FGV-1 concept, at the 1995 Seoul Motor Show.

2000s (fuel cells)

With environmental concerns entering the mainstream by the turn of the millennium, Hyundai unveiled its first prototype fuel cell car in 2000, the Santa Fe Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle concept. Housing a 350-bar hydrogen tank—a first for the industry—the car was good for 75 kW (100 hp) and 230 kms. Though impressive for the time, the lack of infrastructure for these types of vehicles underscored the glaring non-viability of fuel cell technology back then.

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And yet, Hyundai soldiered on with its fuel cell technologies. At the 2004 Geneva Motor Show, Hyundai announced its second-generation fuel cell concept, the Hyundai Tucson FCEV wearing a new lithium polymer battery that incorporated a series of technical advancements including an 80 kW (107 hp) fuel cell stack and a driving range that extended to 300 kms.

While the rest of the automotive world was still in the infancy stage of hybrid technology, Hyundai had already launched the Avante LPI Hybrid production model in 2009, the world’s first hybrid vehicle to be powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE) that relied on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for fuel, as well as powered by a lithium polymer battery.

2010s (future mobility)

The past decade was the time Hyundai shifted its focus from building electric/hybrid/fuel cell concepts to actually building mass production versions that work. In 2010, Hyundai launched its first production electric car, the BlueOn in its home market of Korea. Based on the Hyundai i10, the car was powered by a 16.4 kWh lithium-polymer battery that took six-hours to charge. On full power, the car had a range of 140 kms and 130 kph top speed.

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Another eco-friendly milestone is the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid released in 2011. Aside from being the first conventional full hybrid vehicle to use lithium-ion polymer batteries, the Sonata Hybrid employed Hyundai’s Blue Drive technology, which greatly enhanced the model’s overall fuel consumption while keeping exhaust emissions minimal.

The year 2013 marked another significant achievement for the brand with the release of the ix35, which effectively became the first commercially mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in the world. Combining a 24-kWh lithium polymer battery and a 5.64-kg tank of hydrogen, the ix35 boasted a 100-kW (134 hp), 600-km driving range, and zero CO2 emissions.

In 2018, Hyundai launched the NEXO, its second-generation fuel cell vehicle and technological flagship. Featuring a best-in-class driving range of 666 kms, the car's byproducts are mainly composed of oxygen (99.9 percent) and water (0.1 percent).

In January of this year, Hyundai announced a massive three-tier smart mobility solution comprising Urban Air Mobility, Purpose Built Vehicle and Hub, collectively known as UAM-PBV-Hub. The way it works is UAM combines Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) and urban air mobility services to make airspace available for transportation, effectively connecting the sky and the ground.

Hyundai is even bringing its environmental initiatives to other aspects of mobility-namely, to race cars and commercial trucks. By 2025, Hyundai plans to be one of the top three providers of electric vehicles in Europe.

The Philippines is not exempted from Hyundai’s electrification plans. It managed to beat many other EV manufacturers to the punch when it launched the Kona Electric and Ioniq Hybrid and here in April 2019, and the Ioniq Electric a few months after.

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As the world faces a new decade, Hyundai continues to look towards the future in order to further strengthen its position as a leader of eco-mobility. This year has been dubbed as the company’s “Year of Electrification,” with the goal of offering over three-quarters of its line-up in the European Union as an electrified version by the end of the year, as well as becoming one of the biggest providers of zero emission vehicles in the EU.

Photos from Hyundai

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