Hyundai gets into the small electric SUV market first with its Kona EV, and with more than 450km of range, the reasons not to buy are diminishing.
If the Hyundai Kona is the future of EV, we’re actually quite pleased.
HYUNDAI’S KONA EV IS ONE SMALL STEP for electric vehicles, one giant leap for EV kind, particularly in perception. Though Hyundai claims 400km range from its Kona EV, the reality is more like 450, given 470km is the claim overseas. That magic 400km marker seems to be the difference between electric cars being a status symbol or novelty for the future, to something that has officially become practical and useable right now.
Let’s first deal with the price: the EV version is almost double the top-spec turbo petrol Kona, but does come with a host of gear expected in an $80k car, such as radar cruise, head-up display, large touchscreen, heated seats and steering wheel, speed sign recognition, lane assist, wireless phone charging and Carplay/auto. There’s even a button to isolate the fan controls to the driver only.
There are ‘shifting’ paddles behind the wheel, which manually alter the charging rate during, for example, steep descents, to maximise energy recovery and charging, subsequently increasing the drag effect.
The other numbers to consider are the speed ones: though Hyundai claims 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds, it manages this in the maximum Eco+ mode. We clocked 6.9 seconds in Sport mode without doing anything special; no loading against the brake, simply lift foot off brake and mash go pedal, to produce numbers that make it one of the quickest SUVS on sale.
Given it’s ‘just’ front-drive, there’s even a slight restrain of power which noticeably steps back up at 60km/h, like a Honda VTEC. And whatever the speed, from 10
Zero to 100 in 6.9 seconds and a range well over 400km, this is the future of driving, right now
to 100km/h, floor the throttle and it has the same, instant acceleration that makes EVS so appealing, while it’s also customisable in one of the four driving modes.
All the while the Kona EV hums at idle, or glides along silently with a faint whir and drum of tyres, like something out of The Jetsons, or
Minority Report. It feels like a car of tomorrow, and drives like a car of today.
Though it’s 15 percent heavier than the petrol Kona, all that weight is down low, so handling doesn’t suffer either.
So it just comes down to use and charging the battery. Entering the EV world is like entering the Matrix, with a world of previously ‘invisible’ EV charging points dotted around the country, easily located via phone apps – we used Plugshare, which reveals more than 30 charging points in the 110km joining Auckland and Hamilton, with another eight before Taupo.
Though the stations offer a range of ‘power’, the super charger at Hampton Downs for example offers fast charging times – adding around 1km range per minute. Other smaller charging stations aren’t as fast, but even 10-20 mins could be enough to get you home… not unlike a typical petrol tank fill.
Easiest of course is to plug into a home socket, but it’s also the slowest – like a large fuel tank, its Lithium-ion batteries take up to 43 hours to charge from flat. Though if $80k is an option for an electric EV, we doubt an extra $2500 for a home fast charging station should be a concern, which cuts it down to 8-9 hours. Our overnight AV charging (around 14 hours) was good to boost the battery from around 60 to 90 percent; it’s that last 10 percent that takes time.
So are EVS the car of the future? No. They’ve actually reached a point where they’re practical now, at least in range if not price. Over the coming years, with range increasing and prices decreasing (not forgetting rising fuel prices), the three big factors – range, charge time and price – have now entered the realm of real world SUVS, and with the added performance, it’s looking like a positive outlook.
It feels like a car of tomorrow, and drives like a car of today
Below: Super Chargers are dotted around the country, as are normal chargers. At Hamptons Downs Raceway, a nearby café allows EV users to recharge car and body.
Right: Different driving modes – Normal, Comfort, Eco and Eco+ - change the driving feel, while Eco+ limits features that power might drain (AC) and limits speed to 90km/h. Battery drain didn’t change drastically throughout the modes, though energy recovering (through increased braking) is noticeable.
Above: The interior is remarkably ‘normal’, with the touchscreen revealing a large array of EV information, such as how it’s being consumed. Left: With the plastic cover removed, the electric components look not far removed from a normal engine.