Kia to sell Forte hybrid car in Aug.

owerRating -- Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-largest automaker, will begin selling its first hybrid car later this year, featuring high-end lithium-ion battery technology, a company executive said Tuesday.

., said Kia will release the hybrid version of the Forte compact car in August for the South Korean market.

Neither Hyundai nor Kia currently sell commercial hybrid models, but have been stepping up their efforts to bring hybrid cars to the market in response to high gas prices and an increasing premium on fuel efficiency in the U.S.

Hyundai also plans to launch its Avante hybrid car later this year in South Korea, Lee said.

"Hyundai and Kia expect to sell about 40,000 units of the Avante and Forte hybrid cars this year," Lee told reporters at a press conference in Seoul.

The Forte hybrid, which runs on both liquid petroleum gas and electricity, is representative of "Kia's new strategy for eco-friendly management," the automaker said in a statement.

Equipped with a 1.6-liter gas-powered engine and a lithium-ion battery, the Forte hybrid can run 17.2 kilometers per liter with 114 horsepower at its peak, Kia said.

Conventional hybrid cars, including Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius, use nickel-metal hydride batteries. Experts say lithium-ion batteries would allow automakers to significantly cut costs in building hybrid cars.

Hyundai plans to start selling its hybrid version of Sonata sedan in the U.S. market as early as 2010, the company said earlier.

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