ZEN ART OF EMIT­TING ZERO

The Ioniq Elec­tric prom­ises equal ap­peal to tech lovers and tree hug­gers

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - IAIN CURRY

Aus­tralians are run­ning out of rea­sons to not gen­uinely con­sider a zero emis­sions car. Elec­tric cars? Too ex­pen­sive. Won’t travel far enough. We don’t have the charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture. They look daft.

With the launch of Hyundai’s purely elec­tric Ioniq, such ar­gu­ments are wear­ing thin. The Ioniq Elec­tric costs from just $44,990, has a bat­tery range of 230km in real world driv­ing, can charge to 80 per cent in 23 min­utes at ev­er­in­creas­ing fast-charge points and looks, well, al­most like a nor­mal car.

As a chest-thump­ing dis­ci­ple of the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine, I need more con­vinc­ing than most about an elec­tric car rev­o­lu­tion. I’ve taken the au­to­mo­tive ver­sion of the cola chal­lenge and dis­cov­ered an Ioniq Elec­tric can make de­cent sense — not for ev­ery­one but for more Aus­tralians than ever be­fore.

Im­por­tantly, the Ioniq Elec­tric never lied to me dur­ing our test. When we started in Bris­bane with a full bat­tery, it said we could travel 232km. I put the air­con­di­tion­ing on and this dropped to 202km.

Af­ter a 107km mix of city, high­way and twisty moun­tain road driv­ing — air­con stay­ing on and me never driv­ing con­ser­va­tively — we had 96km range re­main­ing. Spot on.

They were en­joy­able kilo­me­tres too. The Ioniq Elec­tric’s 88kW/295Nm mo­tor means it isn’t fast but has de­cent poke off the line and Hyundai Aus­tralia has tuned the sus­pen­sion for our con­di­tions so there’s a happy blend of ride com­fort and han­dling nous.

I didn’t feel like a fu­tur­ist freak ei­ther, at times for­get­ting I was driv­ing an elec­tric car. No fos­sil fuel en­gine or gears chang­ing means it’s im­pres­sively smooth and ghostly quiet, even if tyre and wind noise are more ob­vi­ous.

Ra­dio on and with a pas­sen­ger to chat to, it all feels very nor­mal. You could shift to elec­tric driv­ing as seam­lessly as you did from writ­ing let­ters to send­ing emails.

The Ioniq Elec­tric comes to mar­ket as Aus­tralia’s cheapest purely elec­tric car. The $44,990 (be­fore on-roads) sticker is still hefty for a five-door lift­back sim­i­lar in size to Hyundai’s Elantra and i30.

How­ever, it’s prac­ti­cal enough to be a fam­ily car and the po­ten­tial for zero emis­sions mo­tor­ing jus­ti­fies — to tech lovers and tree hug­gers at least — the price pre­mium. Hyundai’s reg­u­lar five-year war­ranty and an­nual ser­vice bills of only $160 add to the ap­peal.

Our next cheapest EV is the tiny odd­ball Re­nault Zoe at $47,490, and the Ioniq Elec­tric looks a give-away when con­sid­ered along­side the EV poster boy Tesla Model S, start­ing from $146,512 drive-away. Those not ready to dive into the elec­tric deep end can opt for other Ioniqs with petrol en­gine safety nets. Hy­brid and Plug-in ver­sions each use 1.6-litre four­cylin­ders backed by elec­tric mo­tors, for com­bined out­puts of 104kW/265Nm.

The Hy­brid’s small bat­tery, charged only through re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing, helps the car re­turn an im­pres­sive 3.4L/100km. The Plug-in has larger bat­tery ca­pac­ity, en­abling some 63km of pure elec­tric driv­ing — enough to cover most Aus­tralian com­mutes. For­got to plug it in? The petrol mo­tor’s got your back.

Hyundai Ioniq prod­uct plan­ner Scott Yoon says the brief was to have “at­trac­tive styling, be a nor­mal look­ing car, have com­pet­i­tive fuel ef­fi­ciency, en­gag­ing driv­ing and ad­vanced, smart tech­nol­ogy”. In other words, an an­ti­dote to the chal­leng­ing de­sign of its Toy­ota Prius ri­val.

All Ioniqs are well equipped with com­pre­hen­sive ac­tive safety, radar cruise con­trol, rear cam­era, eight-inch touch­screen, sat­nav, Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto, smart en­try and start, cli­mate con­trol and al­loy wheels.

Drop an­other $4000-$5000 and Pre­mium ver­sions of each bring larger al­loys, leather heated and ven­ti­lated power seats, power sun­roof, pad­dle-shifters, bi-xenon head­lights and wire­less phone charg­ing.

The Ioniq Hy­brid and Plug-in are the safe bets with their con­ven­tional ra­di­a­tor grilles and six-speed dou­ble-clutch au­tos. Hyundai says early in­ter­est is weighted firmly to­wards the full elec­tric camp — and the Ioniq Elec­tric, with its grille-free nose treat­ment in matt grey or gloss black, would be a smart choice.

The Ioniq Plug-in costs $40,990 in Elite trim or $45,490 in Pre­mium grade, mir­ror­ing the price of Mit­subishi’s Out­lander PHEV, the in­vogue size plug-in SUV.

A com­mer­cial 100kW DC fast-charg­ing sta­tion tops up the Elec­tric’s 28kWh Lithi­u­mion poly­mer bat­tery to 80 per cent ca­pac­ity in 23 min­utes. Fit a 7kW AC per­sonal charg­ing sta­tion in your garage ($1995 in­stalled) and do the job in four hours 25 min­utes. A do­mes­tic 240V AC socket does it in 12 hours.

Pad­dles be­hind the steer­ing wheel ad­just how much re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing you want. It’s a clever set-up and sim­ply lift­ing off the ac­cel­er­a­tor nearly brings you to a stop in city traf­fic and ar­rests speed sweetly down hills while adding juice to the bat­ter­ies.

You need to change your driv­ing style but it be­comes sec­ond na­ture af­ter a few jour­neys.

VER­DICT

Let’s not pre­tend the Ioniq Elec­tric is a cheap small car. It isn’t. But it’s com­pelling — spa­cious, com­fort­able, fun to drive and in the realms of af­ford­abil­ity. Its great­est tal­ent is mak­ing zero emis­sions EV driv­ing feel per­fectly nor­mal.

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