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Hyundai Unveils its BlueOn Electric Car In Korea

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author photo by Autotrader September 2010

These days, electric cars are grabbing all the attention. Media coverage of the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf is frenzied for even the smallest announcements, and the sporty, all-electric Tesla Roadster is still a hot topic. Hybrid cars get lots of buzz, with the Toyota Prius recently crowned the best-selling car in Japan for the sixteenth straight month.

However, despite this, Hyundai has never joined the electric car party. The South Korean automaker, known especially for fuel-efficient small cars, has not yet built a hybrid, let alone a fully-electric, plug-in car – but according to Hyundai, that's all about to change.

On Thursday, the automaker unveiled the plug-in electric BlueOn at a news conference in Seoul, South Korea. Based on the i10 – a small city car not sold in the United States – the BlueOn is a four-door hatchback slightly smaller than the Mini Cooper. Hyundai says it will top out at 80 mph and go about 86 miles on a single charge, making it competitive with the Nissan Leaf, which can hit 87 mph and runs out of juice after about 100 miles.

Although the BlueOn is still a ways off – Hyundai says official sales likely won't start until 2013 – the first wave of 30 BlueOn prototypes will be released soon for a trial run to government offices in South Korea, such as the Ministry of Environment. According to Hyundai, BlueOns will also be the official vehicles of the G20 Summit in Seoul – a surprise, as the summit is just two months away.

Unfortunately, Hyundai said it was too early in the BlueOn's development to discuss exporting it to other markets like the United States – or its mass production.

"The BlueOn costs some W60 million (around $51,000) just to manufacture, which is more expensive than a large sedan," an official at Hyundai's electric car division told The Chosun Ilbo, one of Korea's major daily newspapers. "It will also take time to build recharging stations."

Hyundai shouldn't worry about the BlueOn's mass appeal, though. If the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf prove anything, the BlueOn will have no trouble finding media attention and waiting-list popularity.

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Hyundai Unveils its BlueOn Electric Car In Korea - Autotrader