February 8, 2018 News of the Day: Hyundai Reveals 2018 Sonata Hybrid With 650 Mile Range, Subaru's New 2018 PHEV Will Use Prius Prime Technology From Toyota

Author: Eric Walz   

CHICAGO — Hyundai today unveiled its redesigned 2018 Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid models at the Chicago Auto Show this week, the largest auto show in the U.S.

The new Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid feature a comprehensive redesign, safety, suspension and new and improved infotainment and connectivity features. The 2018 Hybrid and Plug-in will be produced in Asan, Korea, with Hybrid availability in the first quarter of 2018 and Plug-in availability in the second quarter of 2018.

"Our new 2018 Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in models add appeal in every area, from exterior to interior design, handling, steering, ride comfort, safety and infotainment," said Mike O'Brien, vice president of Product, Corporate and Digital Planning at Hyundai Motor America. "When combined with Hyundai's outstanding value and efficiency, the new Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in are sure to attract even more eco-focused buyers."

The heart of the 2018 Sonata Hybrid is a 2.0-liter Nu GDI four-cylinder engine coupled with a six-speed automatic transmission that houses a powerful 38 kW electric motor and clutch where the torque converter would normally would be.

Hyundai's new transmission uses an electric oil pump, which helps improve efficiency. It is possible for Sonata Hybrid to operate solely on electric power at speeds up to 75 mph by decoupling the gasoline engine from the rest of the drivetrain.

Sonata Hybrid's Nu engine produces 154 horsepower and 140 lb. ft. of torque. The electric motor produces 38 kW (51 horsepower) and 151 lb. ft. of torque. The car's total range is estimated at more than 650 miles under normal driving conditions.

The Sonata's lithium-ion polymer battery pack capacity is 1.76 kWh and the battery is mounted under the trunk floor, which save some interior space. Locating the battery pack beneath the trunk floor helps improve cargo volume and total interior volume with 106.1 cu. ft., the most in its segment.

The Sonata Plug-in Hybrid an EPA-estimated all-electric range of up to 27 miles, and it can recharge in less than three hours with a level-two charger. It offers the best of both worlds by providing the power delivery of a hybrid gasoline engine, with the additional benefit of environmentally-friendly all-electric range for commuting. As a result, many consumers will be able to complete their daily commute without using any fuel, and total estimated range is an impressive 590 miles.

Owners can manage and monitor the Sonata Plug-In Hybrid remotely via the Blue Link smartphone app. With the app, owners can access real-time data from their Sonata Plug-in and perform specific commands like starting the engine and locking doors. Plus, users can search for points of interest using Google with voice or text and have the directions ready when they start the car.

For Sonata Plug-in owners who will charge at their home, one of the most useful features of the app is the ability to manage their Plug-in charging schedule. Owners are given vehicle charging options that they can select while in the car, but users can also manage them remotely via their smartphone. Immediate charge is the simplest option, as charging begins as soon as the Sonata Plug-in Hybrid is plugged-in.

Another innovative feature is a distinctive instrument cluster that provides Sonata Plug-in Hybrid drivers with additional information about the vehicle's functions. A charge indicator is located on top of the dashboard to make it easy to see the state of charge — even from outside the vehicle.

Subaru's New PHEV in 2018 Will Use Prius Prime Technology From Toyota

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Subaru has been slow introduce plug-in hybrid models. However, that will soon change. The company is gearing up to introduce a new plug-in hybrid in the United States later this year using technology borrowed from the Toyota Prius Prime.

Set to become the brand's first hybrid since the poor-selling hybrid Crosstrek was discontinued, the model will borrow heavily from Toyota which has a sizable stake in the automaker.

As Subaru chief technical officer Takeshi Tachimori explained to Automotive News, "For our plug-in hybrid to be introduced this year, we have used Toyota's technologies as much as possible." However, Tachimori confirmed the car will have a longitudinally-mounted Subaru engine instead of a transversely-mounted Toyota unit.

The model will be heavily influenced by the Toyota Prius Prime, so the car may have an 8.8 kWh lithium-ion battery pack and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. Since the Subaru model will use a unique engine, it's hard to predict fuel economy numbers but the Prius Prime can travel up to 25 miles (40 km) on electricity alone.

There's no word on which model will receive the plug-in hybrid powertrain but Tachimori confirmed the vehicle will be built in Japan and initially sold in states that follow California's Zero Emission Vehicle program. This is includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon.

The decision to use Toyota's technology comes out of necessity as Tachimori stated "We can't engage in a large-scale development" because of their small size and limited resources.

This is not the first time Subaru and Toyota have shared technology. In 2012, Subaru announced that it would produce the BRZ along with a version for Toyota, which was branded the 86 in Japan, the GT86 in Europe and the Scion FR-S in North America. Both two door coupes featured a rear-wheel-drive layout with Subaru's 2.0-liter boxer engine making 200-hp and 151 lb-ft of torque at the rear axle. Toyota contributed direct injection technology to the project.

Lyft Hires Top Exec From Tesla as COO to Compete With Uber

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SAN FRANCISCO — Ride-hailing company Lyft has hired Tesla Inc.'s Jon McNeill as the company's new COO to help the U.S. ride-hailing startup gain more ground on Uber in the ride-hailing space.

Prior to joining Lyft, McNeill was president of global sales and service at Tesla. On Tesla's earnings call with analysts and journalists on Wednesday, CEO Elon Musk said McNeill's department would report directly to him and that "there are no plans to search for a replacement."

Tesla has pledged to create its own ride-hailing service using self-driving vehicles, though there have been little signs of progress since Musk described the plan in 2016. However, he did revisit the topic on Wednesday's call.

"We expect to operate kind of a shared autonomous fleet, like a combination of Uber or Lyft and Airbnb, where you can opt to have your car enter a shared fleet," he said. "That's a pretty significant opportunity."

McNeill will fill a hole left by the departure late last year of Rex Tibbens, Lyft's former COO. Tibbens helped Lyft expand throughout the U.S. and gain market share from Uber.

In 2017, Lyft said it increased market share by more than 50 percent and added a high-profile investor. Alphabet Inc.'s private equity arm, CapitalG, led a $1.5 billion investment, disclosed in October. General Motors is also a Lyft investor.

GM And ExxonMobil Invest $13.7M In On-Demand Fuel Delivery Service

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As the automotive industry shifts to electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, in the interim there will still be many internal combustion engine vehicles on the roads that will require refueling. ExxonMobil and the venture capital arm of General Motors, GM Ventures, have invested in an "on-demand vehicle care startup" called Yoshi to meet consumer demand for convenient mobility services, including the need to refuel.

Yoshi focuses on providing on-demand fuel delivery and vehicle services such as oil changes and car washes. After signing up and providing details about their vehicle, users can schedule a variety of services on either a one-time or monthly basis.

The optional monthly membership costs $20 and includes a weekly refueling service with gas prices that are reportedly competitive with traditional refueling stations. The fee also includes free tire checks and refills as well as a rewards program which can be used to redeem free "power-ups."

"Power-ups" may include everything from car washes to wiper replacements and detailing services. Pricing varies by region but a detail typically costs $235 while an oil change is currently $75.

The service is available in a handful of larger U.S. cities including Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Nashville, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Yoshi says the latest round of investments will enable them to improve their services and "dramatically" increase the number of cities they serve.

There's no word on why GM Ventures invested in the company but ExxonMobil wasn't shy about its reasoning. As the company explained, they're a "leading strategic investor" and will provide Yoshi with its own fuel and lubricants. The oil giant will also have a seat on Yoshi's board of directors and believes the "direct-to-vehicle care service will attract new customers to Exxon and Mobil branded products."

Eric Walz
Originally from New Jersey, Eric is an automotive and technology reporter specializing in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley. Eric has over fifteen years of automotive experience and a B.A. in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the automotive industry and beyond. He has worked on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology. Outside of work, Eric likes to travel to new places, play guitar, and explore the outdoors.
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