Hyundai Details New Sonata Hybrid as Hybrid Cars Climb

Hybrids overall were up in first-half 2019, a situation that may bode well for new entrants to the sector such as the solar-roofed new Sonata Hybrid.

Christie Schweinsberg, Senior Editor

July 24, 2019

3 Min Read
2020 Sonata Hybrid solar roof
Solar roof can provide 808 additional miles of range per year, with six hours of daily charging.

Hyundai releases images and specifications of the Korean-market next-generation Sonata Hybrid, while first-half U.S. sales of current hybrids suggest a new iteration of the car may be coming at the perfect time.

The new ’20 Sonata Hybrid sedan will use a 150-hp 2.0L gasoline-direct-injected 4-cyl. in conjunction with a 38-kW electric motor. The engine, also making 138 lb.-ft. (187 Nm) of torque, is from Hyundai’s new Smartstream engine family. Total combined output of the engine and motor is 192 hp, the automaker says.

The outgoing Sonata Hybrid also used a 2.0L GDI 4-cyl., from Hyundai’s Nu engine family, and a 38-kW motor, with total output rated slightly higher at 193 hp.

However, the new Sonata Hybrid (pic below) reportedly will get better fuel economy. In the Korean market it is expected to achieve around 45-47 mpg (5.2-5.0 L/100 km), compared with the ’19 U.S. model which averaged 41 mpg or 42 mpg (5.7 or 5.6 L/100 km) combined, depending on trim level.

2020 Sonata Hybrid front.jpg

2020 Sonata Hybrid front

Drawing a lot of attention is Hyundai’s decision to include a solar roof on the new Sonata Hybrid, which the automaker says can provide 808 extra miles (1,300 km) of range annually to the car’s battery pack, if charged for six hours daily. it is unclear if this roof will be available in all markets, including the U.S.

A handful of models have been available in the U.S. with a solar roof, including the ’92 Mazda 929 and the ’09-’15 Toyota Prius. In those cars, the solar roof powered fans to cool the interior of the car, not provide additional range, particularly in the case of the 929 as it was not a hybrid but an internal-combustion-engine-only model.

However, the current Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid sold in Japan has a solar roof that provides up to 10% more fuel efficiency, per reports.

Audi, which experimented with cabin-cooling solar roofs on its ICE models in the past, reportedly is looking to bring the feature back to power supplementary systems such as seat heaters and air conditioning.

Hyundai and sister brand Kia said last fall ( they intend to introduce solar roofs or hoods on a variety of vehicles, including ICE-only models.

In addition to the solar roof, other new technology being introduced on the Sonata Hybrid is active shift control technology, which the Korean automaker is claiming as a world-first.

New control logic software is applied to the car’s hybrid control unit, controlling the motor to align the rotational speeds of the engine and transmission to help limit gear shift time by 30%, Hyundai says. Stated benefits include improved acceleration and fuel economy; transmission durability rises due to reduced friction.

While sales of the current Sonata Hybrid were down 38.2% to 1,635 units in first-half 2019 in the U.S., sales of hybrids overall have been strong this year, bucking the downturn in sales of gas-engine-only models and the falloff in plug-in hybrid sales.

Total hybrid sales through June tallied 191,119, Wards Intelligence data shows, an 18.0% increase vs. the 3.1% decline in gas-engine-only vehicles and the 27.2% drop in PHEV sales.

What’s more, it’s not just sales of hybrid light trucks that are driving deliveries upward in 2019.

Of the 191,119 total hybrid sales through June, 124,720 were cars. That’s up from 103,872 in first-half 2018 and outperforms the roughly 8,000-unit gain in sales of hybrid light trucks from first-half 2018 to first-half 2019.

Hybrid car sales have risen this year thanks to gains by a variety of models including the Ford Fusion Hybrid (the No.1-selling hybrid car in the U.S., outselling the slumping Toyota Prius by 20,000 units), Honda Accord Hybrid, Lexus ES 300h, Lincoln MKZ, Toyota Camry and Toyota Corolla. The latter is a new addition to the Corolla lineup in the U.S., with a hybrid variant having been sold in Japan with prior generations of the car.

No U.S on-sale date for the Sonata Hybrid is given, but prior generations have followed months after the introduction of ICE-only models. The new, non-hybrid ’20 Sonata ( is due later this year in the U.S.

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