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Hyundai charges forward with alternative fuels

  • Hyundai believes alternative fuels will be key for future
  • At least 22 new ‘green’ cars by 2020
  • Product offensive starts with Ioniq which will be unveiled in two weeks

Last year was a record year for Hyundai. It surpassed one million sales in the UK, and the new Tucson in particular proved a big hit with retail and fleet customers.

Not content to sit back and rest on its laurels, the Korean company has set ambitious growth plans for the next couple of years which will see its entire range replaced by the end of 2018.

Alternatively fuelled vehicles will play a big part of the firm’s future success and it all starts with Ioniq.

With the official world premiere of the new Ioniq just two weeks away, we caught up with Tony Whitehorn, Hyundai’s UK CEO and president to discuss how the future is shaping up.

Evolution of fuel choice

Last year's VW emissions scandal not only called into question the economy and CO2 figures of a lot of diesel engines, but it also made people reconsider diesel as a fuel choice.

Whitehorn believes that not only will 2016 be a year for the petrol engine to make a comeback, but also that we'll see a change in how company car drivers and retail buyers consider cars.

“Because of the issues with emissions last year, people are more inquisitive than ever and looking at alternative fuels. The diesel engine is absolutely not dead, but people are starting to look at alternatives and manufacturers have to invest more in alternative fuels. The whole industry is changing all the time – the car makers that win will be the ones who can be the most flexible,” said Whitehorn.

By 2020 Hyundai will have 22 alternatively fuelled cars in its range - 12 hybrids, six plug-in hybrids, two fuel-cell cars and two electric vehicles.

Whitehorn believes that in the future all customers will be able to choose a different fuel method for each car, similar to the way we choose the trim and options today.

Ioniq is just the start

Set to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show on March 1, the Ioniq is the start of Hyundai’s alternative fuel product offensive and it will go on sale here in the UK in the autumn 2016.

Available to buy as a hybrid, electric or plug-in hybrid later after launch, the Ioniq is to be equipped with a newly developed 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol in combination with a 32kW electric motor. Combined output for the hybrid will be 139bhp and 265Nm of torque.

Featuring a coupe-like sloping roof and a suite of advanced modern technologies, the Ioniq is to be used as a showcase for all future alternatively fuelled Hyundai cars.

“Ioniq will be used as a showcase for our latest advanced tech and then the technology will filter down to the rest of the range. We are very much an alternative fuel company,” said Whitehorn.

Changing perceptions

By the end of 2018, the oldest car in the Hyundai range will be the Ioniq, which will make the Korean firm one of the freshest brands in the UK.

By 2020 there’ll be six Genesis models too (the firm's range of luxury cars) and next year we will see the introduction of the sportier N-range cars across the line-up.

Hyundai has gone to great lengths to shake its previous ‘cheap and cheerful’ labelling, instead moving into the premium marketplace – something Whitehorn admits is still taking some adjustment for customers.

“It takes a long time for people to change their perceptions. People probably don’t think of us as cheap anymore but they're genuinely surprised when they get into our cars.”

It looks like the firm's green credentials may change perceptions further still and it's fair to say the car maker has a very busy couple of years ahead. Watch this space.