CHARGE LEAD

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.

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - Story & Pho­tos: Dean Evans

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.

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