Hyundai plans 'green' cars
By Gong Zhengzheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-17 06:01
South Korea's biggest carmaker Hyundai Motor is planning to introduce
environmentally-friendly hybrid-powered and fuel-cell cars to China, according
to a top official with its joint venture in Beijing.
Xu Heyi, chairman of Hyundai's venture with Beijing Automotive Industry Corp,
told China Daily the venture would begin the commercial production of
petrol-electric hybrid-powered cars before the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.
"Hybrid" means petrol engines can power cars and produce electricity
simultaneously. The electricity can also power cars, helping to lower fuel
consumption and exhaust emissions.
The venture will begin to make hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars by 2010, Xu
said. Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity to power the car and only
"These are important part of our efforts to provide environmentally-friendly
products as well as follow the central government's call to build a
resource-efficient society," said Xu.
Hyundai's plans come as a slew of other foreign and domestic carmakers have
already started to produce hybrid-powered cars in China or have announced they
will do so. The country is the world's No 3 car market but is short of oil.
Last year, Japan's Toyota Motor Corporation kicked off production of the
hybrid-powered Prius sedan in Northeast China's Jilin Province with First
Automotive Works Corp. It meant Toyota became the first foreign car manufacturer
to build hybrid vehicles in China.
General Motors (GM), Volkswagen and Chinese car firm Geely all plan to make
hybrid-powered vehicles in China in 2008. GM says it will also produce fuel-cell
vehicles in China in 2010.
Analysts say hybrid vehicles have tremendous growth potential in China as
they are much more economical than standard cars.
However, hybrid engines are still a lot more expensive than petrol and diesel
engines. It would take the average driver seven to eight years to recover his or
her investment in a standard hybrid vehicle, and most consumers would not like
that, said Michael Dunne, president of consultancy Automotive Resources Asia
Hybrid vehicles are only likely to be chosen by a few people who are "ultra
conscientious" about the environment, Dunne said.
According to industry statistics, Toyota only sold 487 units of the
hybrid-powered Prius in China in the first two months of this year. The
2.0-litre car costs between 288,000 yuan (US$35,820) and 302,000 yuan
In another development, Beijing Hyundai's Xu said the venture would launch a
local-brand car in 2008 as part of its five to six new products in the years
leading to 2010.
"The local-brand car won't bear a Hyundai logo, but we haven't decided on its
name. It will be an economy model designed by the soon-to-be-built Beijing
Hyundai's research and development centre according to Chinese customer tastes,"
He said the venture would soon begin building a new 300,000-unit plant in
Beijing, including the research and development centre.
Beijing Hyundai, set up in 2002, is one of the fastest-growing car
manufacturers in China.
The venture aims to sell 300,000 cars this year, Xu said.
In 2005, its sales surged by 62 per cent to 234,000 units from the previous
The venture now produces the Elantra, Sonata and Accent sedans, and Tucson
sport utility vehicles.
Analysts have predicted China's vehicle market will total 10 million units a
year by 2010, up from 5.9 million units last year.
(China Daily 03/17/2006 page10)