Chicago Auto Show 2020

Redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid delivers 52 mpg, has available solar roof

Hyundai is adding a fuel-efficient Sonata Hybrid model to its lineup.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The 2020 Hyundai Sonata has won praise for it's high-quality interior and budget-friendly packaging. Now it's the 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid's turn. Hyundai introduced the model at the Chicago Auto Show this week, making it one of the 13 new products the automaker is adding to its lineup by 2022.

Boasting 686 miles of driving range and an EPA estimated 52 mpg combined fuel economy rating on the Blue trim, the Sonata Hybrid is nearly as efficient as the Toyota Prius - and much larger.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid The Sonata Hybrid has a sleep and aerodynamic exterior design.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The Sonata Hybrid's fuel efficiency comes, in part, from its exterior design. The model has a unique cross-hole grille with active air flaps, a rear spoiler and aerodynamic alloy wheels. There's also a unique solar room, which recharges the car's battery when the car is off. The system can increase the driving range of the car by a couple miles after six hours of charging.

The sedan is powered by a 2.0-liter hybrid regimen that is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Hyundai's engineering team has reduced the time the Sonata takes to shift gears by 30 percent, allowing the car to accelerate more rapidly and achieve better fuel economy.

Sonata Hybrid's powertrain is capable of achieving a maximum of 151 pound-feet of torque and 192 horsepower. Those outputs put the Sonata right down the middle of its segment, delivering slightly less horsepower but significantly more torque than its closest competition.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid The exterior of the Sonata Hybrid is very similar to the Sonata.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai's solar roof covers the top most roof area from the windshield to the rear glass. It consists of two solar panels that charge the car's 12-volt and hybrid batteries, outputting 205 watts of electricity. The system increases mileage by two miles per day and helps prevent battery discharge from the infotainment or HVAC system while the car is turned off.

The Sonata features most of the same comfort, convenience, and safety technology that can be found in the traditionally powered 2020 Sonata. That includes Digital Key, which uses a driver's smartphone as the key to the car via near field communication and bluetooth technology.

There's also a hands-free trunk, Qi high-speed wireless smartphone charging pad with cooling fan, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, and split-folding rear seats.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid The car has a unique solar roof, which helps charge the car.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Sonata Hybrid comes with a standard eight-inch digital display screen and a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen is available. The digital instrument cluster in front of the driver features a 12.3-inch display. A Bose audio system is available.

Hyundai was able to change the storage location for the car's hybrid battery, allowing the model to have 2.5 cubic feet more trunk space compared to the 2019 Sonata Hybrid. There's also best-in-class headroom and legroom.

2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid The interior of the 2020 Sonata Hybrid is just as luxe as the Sonata.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The 2020 Sonata Hybrid goes on sale soon. Pricing is expected to be similar, though slightly elevated, compared to the 2019 model.

There have been four-, five, and six-speed transmissions. All the way up to 10-speeds. Now, there's the world's first predictive shifting technology that combines traditional transmission functionality with smart computing that takes into account road conditions and the flow of traffic to shit into the right gear. By optimizing gearing, vehicles can have improved fuel economy and less wear on a their mechanical elements including the brakes.

Called the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Connected Shift System, the technology employs intelligent software in the Transmission Control Unit that collects and interprets real-time input from underlying technologies, including 3D navigation equipped with a precise map of the road as well as cameras and radar for smart cruise control. The automakers say that the 3D navigation input includes "elevation, gradient, curvature and a variety of road events as well as current traffic conditions. This occurs while radar detects the speed and distance between the vehicle and others, and a forward-looking camera provides lane information."

Hyundai Kia  ICT Connected Shift System graph chart how it works The ICT Connected Shift System uses a variety of intelligent technologies to perform tasks.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Using these inputs, the system uses an artificial intelligence algorithm and shifts the gears accordingly. During testing, on curved roads the frequency of shifting was reduced 43 percent compared to vehicles without the system. It also reduced the frequency of brake usage by 11 percent.

Engine brakes are applied when an accelerator pedal is released when speed bumps are ahead, when downhill slopes emerge, and when the speed limit changes.

Currently, many vehicles feature a variety of drive modes that adjust shifting, suspension, and acceleration. This system is the first use of that technology with intelligent learning.

During the system development, the companies filed around 40 patents in South Korea and abroad.

The ICT Connected Shift System is just a step in the automakers' intelligent transmission technology development. They're working to develop the intelligence for the system to work with LTE and 5G communication to interact with traffic signals. However, this technology faces a major obstacle for use in daily driver scenarios because of the heavy investment required by municipalities to adopt that level of technology.

"Vehicles are evolving beyond simple mobility devices into smart mobility solutions," said Byeong Wook Jeon, Head of Intelligent Drivetrain Control Research Lab. "Even a traditional area of the automobile, such as the powertrain, is becoming a high-tech technology optimized for smart mobility through efforts to integrate ICT and artificial intelligence technologies."

The ICT Connected Shift System has not yet deployed to vehicles but the companies are planning to advance it in that direction as the technology evolves.

Hyundai will debut its new concept electric vehicle at the Geneva International Motor Show in March.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai has a Prophecy and they will bring it to live in March during the Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland. The new concept electric vehicle will debut on March 3.

The Korean automaker says that the concept car will deploy Hyundai's Sensuous Sportiness" design philosophy with "graceful curves flowing over broad rear flanks that provide excellent aerodynamics." Sounds sexy.

A boat-tail line created by the rear quarter panels have an integrated spoiler and pixel lamp taillights joining them on the back side of the car.

"Prophecy does not follow trends. It accentuates timeless beauty that will stand the test of time," said SangYup Lee, Head of Hyundai Global Design Center. "Its iconic design stands to expand Hyundai's design spectrum toward even broader horizons."

Hyundai says that the name "Prophecy" reflects the concept's purpose, defining it as the direction of future Hyundai designs including the future EV lineup.

Prophecy will be part of a larger reveal featuring additional information regarding the automaker's adoption of electric vehicle technology. Hyundai recently revealed plans to add 13 alternatively fueled vehicles to the company's lineup by 2022.