Hyundai Motor Company has been busy in the past two years developing green vehicles for the South Korean government. The automaker produced 30 BlueOn electric vehicles for the national government fleet in 2010. This delivery also included the Elec-City battery-powered bus tested over the past few months in Seoul. Hyundai’s latest effort is the Blue-City hybrid bus powered in part by compressed natural gas (CNG). The first unit of the Blue-City bus was released last week, representing the first foray by South Korea into CNG commercial vehicles.
The heart of the Blue-City CNG bus is the G-CNG Engine developed by Hyundai. This 177kW CNG engine works with a 3.8kWh lithium-ion battery and a 60kW electric motor to power the bus. Hyundai will also use a six-speed manual transmission with an automatic override to increase drive system efficiency. The Blue-City CNG bus is projected to produce 24% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than competing CNG buses and 35% fewer emissions than traditional diesel buses.
Estimated performance metrics for the Blue-City ensure the vehicle’s competitiveness with traditional buses. The maximum speed for each unit should be 62 miles per hour, which is sufficient for hill climbs and highway speeds. This CNG bus should be on track with alt-fuel buses on the market with an estimated range of 211 miles. Hyundai noted that this range estimate is an improvement upon the prototype because the production model features five CNG fuel tanks instead of seven. These metrics would represent a 40% fuel efficiency boost compared to the average CNG bus.
The Blue-City CNG bus should hit South Korean cities starting in 2012. Hyundai and local governments throughout the country plan to test 30 Blue-City buses over the next year. These tests will look at the daily performance of each vehicle including total range and maintenance needs. Regional transit authorities have invested in CNG refueling stations for bus depots to accommodate these buses. The benefits of the Blue-City go beyond emissions reductions for South Korea. Hyundai has highlighted the fuel savings for transit systems that switch from diesel to natural gas. South Korea can circumvent future energy gluts in Asia by focusing on a renewable energy source that can be produced within its borders.