After announcing it would launch a hybrid version of its shapely Sonata sedan way back at the 2009 L.A. auto show, Hyundai sent out this teaser photo of the 2011 Sonata Hybrid before its official debut at the 2010 New York auto show.
We’ve yet to see the car in its entirety, but it appears the Sonata Hybrid receives a significant makeover to accompany its hybrid driveline. The entire front fascia is revised, incorporating a very thin upper grille accompanied by a larger aperture positioned lower in the bumper. Headlamps and foglamps are also restyled, and it appears the former incorporate Audi-like LED running lamps. For the most part, expect the 2011 Sonata Hybrid to closely resemble the prototype Blue Drive hybrid system Hyundai first showcased at the 2008 Los Angeles auto show. A 30 kW (41 hp) electric motor will likely be sandwiched between a 2.4-liter “Theta II” inline four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic transmission. As a parallel hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid can be propelled either by the electric motor alone or a combination of the two power sources. Perhaps most interesting is the battery pack. Instead of following the crowd and developing lithium ion batteries, Hyundai -- along with partner LG Chem -- has pursued lithium polymer battery packs. For the most part, the battery chemistries are very similar, but instead of using a liquid electrolyte, lithium polymer cells use a polymer-based gel. As a result, each battery cell can be built in a smaller package. Hyundai says an entire lithium polymer pack can be 20 percent smaller than a lithium-ion battery, which is already roughly 50 percent smaller than a traditional nickel metal hydride design. Expect more details, specifications, and photos to emerge closer to the car’s New York debut on March 31.