2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

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Article by Jim Kerr; photos by Greg Wilson

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2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

The 2011 Sonata Hybrid is Hyundai’s first North American hybrid vehicle, but over the past 16 years, the company has been working on a number hybrid vehicles, starting with their 1995 Concept-I. Other Hyundai hybrid vehicles followed, including the Verna, Click and Avante. While you may not be familiar with these vehicles, the miles they have been driven on test tracks and public roads have led to the latest technology found in the new Sonata Hybrid.

There are many unique parts and systems required to make up a hybrid vehicle: electric steering, automatic start/stop control systems, electric air conditioning compressors, electric assist power brakes, regenerative braking, powerful electric motors, electronic controllers with unique programming and of course, the batteries. All these must work together to provide a smoothly operating vehicle, and the Sonata hybrid system does just that. In fact, it works so well that you probably wouldn’t know you were driving a hybrid if not for the exterior badging and the instrument panel display.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

A key component of any hybrid or electric vehicle is the battery, and the Sonata is the first hybrid vehicle on the market to use a lithium-ion polymer battery. In the past, hybrid vehicles have utilized Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. Lithium Ion batteries are used in laptop computers, cell phones, digital cameras and portable music players and they have many advantages over NiMH batteries, including less weight, more power density, no memory effect and low heat generation. There are many different formulae for building a Lithium Ion battery, and they are not all equal. General Motors looked at over 100 types before selecting one for the Chevrolet Volt; Hyundai has chosen a Lithium-Ion Polymer battery formula for the Sonata.

The Sonata battery pack puts out 270 volts and is constructed of nine battery modules, each of which has eight cells, and each cell puts out about 3.75 volts. The complete battery pack, complete with cooling system, diagnostic wiring and control switches, weighs less than 50 kg and has a volume of less than 55 litres. This package has 70 per cent more power density, 59 per cent less internal resistance and is 29 per cent lighter than a comparable NiMH battery, but the Sonata design also has advantages over other Lithium-Ion batteries.

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