Hyundai Aims at 50 MPG Fleetwide by 2025

15 years; a lot can happen in that time. Think back to 1995. What’s changed in your life since then? 9/11. Afghanistan. Iraq. $4 per gallon gas. Economy. Hell, I was just entering college. 15 years can allow for some pretty momentous change.

So it’s easy to see why a company would set lofty goals for itself over the course of 15 years, especially if that company saw the writing on the wall and realized that to compete in the future, something drastic needs to happen. Which is exactly why Hyundai’s president and CEO of North American operations, John Krafcik, said yesterday that his company has set a target of an average of 50 mpg for their entire fleet of cars by 2025.

“Is that a stretch target? Yes,” Krafcik said. “We want to lead the industry in fuel efficiency.” To meet the target, Krafcik said 15-20 percent of sales in 2025 will have to be hybrids and plug-in hybrids. In addition, five percent will have to be fully electric or fuel cell vehicles.

Earlier this year, the auto industry and the White House agreed to a new national program for fuel economy that will force automakers to achieve a fleetwide fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. At the time, even the industry was clamoring for further clarity beyond 2016 so that automakers could start their long term planning knowing what the playing field looked like. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, has introduced legislation that would seek to address this issue by requiring new rules to set fuel economy standards from 2017-2030. In his highly detailed plan (PDF), Merkley notes that “China will be requiring its vehicles to achieve 42.2 mpg by 2015” and that for the U.S., a fuel economy gain of 6-7 percent per year after 2016 “would be a challenging but reasonable goal.”

If you do the math, a 6 percent gain per year over the required 35.5 mpg in 2016 would mean that almost exactly by 2024-2025 the target would be 50 mpg. So you can see that already automakers are starting to grasp the enormity of the likely challenge. And Hyundai, at least, sees that the only way to get to such a high target is to start planning now. “Getting to 50 mpg and beyond seems like a huge leap, but by making this commitment and aligning our R&D initiatives now, we know we can get there,” said Krafcik.

Hyundai has been staking a claim in the fuel efficiency world recently—trying to align its direction with what it sees as the mindset of the younger generation. And for the most part they’ve been successful. With relatively inexpensive, good looking and fuel efficient cars that have recently seen huge quality improvements, Hyundai could turn out to be the sleeper automotive success of this coming decade. At the 2010 New York Auto Show, Hyundai unveiled its Sonata Hybrid, which is estimated to return 37 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. When compared to other vehicles, such as the Toyota Camry Hybrid, those numbers are best-in-class. The Sonata is also capable of traveling at speeds up to 62 mph in electric only mode—besting the Ford Fusion Hybrid’s 47 mph electric only limit.

Source: The Detroit News

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.