Hyundai to offer plug-in hybrid in 2013

With the evergreen Toyota Prius in its sights, Hyundai says that its own plug-in hybrid is just two years away.

Although Hyundai might now be playing catch up with Toyota in the hybrid race, the automaker hopes to even the score in 2013 by launching a plug-in Prius rival.

"We plan to launch a plug-in hybrid model which is in the same segment as the Prius in 2013," an unnamed Hyundai official told Reuters this week in Seoul, where the automaker has recently begun selling its first midsize hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid.

A plug-in Hyundai would likely be based on the existing Sonata Hybrid and would use technology similar to that in the Chevrolet Volt and the limited-availability Toyota Prius Plug-in. Although both of those designs are drastically different beneath the surface, they both rely on strong lithium ion batteries to power the vehicle for a set range before a gas engine kicks over to either serve as a generator (Volt) or provide propulsion assistance (Prius).

Hyundai expects brisk demand for its Sonata Hybrid in its domestic market - as many as 12,000 deliveries through the rest of 2011 before leveling off around 18,000 units annually. The Sonata Hybrid has been on sale in North America since January, although the automaker was slow to roll out the model in this market until recently.

"We're seeing terrific demand for it [the Sonata Hybrid]," John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America president and CEO, said in a statement earlier this month.

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