There is no way around it anymore it seems. The days of manufactures spending billions of dollars developing fast, reliable, fuel efficient and even fun engines and cars is dwindling away like a tumble weed in the wind.
So what does that mean for us car lovers? Well for me, I have always been against electric cars in every form. Growing up with leaded fuel and carburettors, the thought of losing the noise, power and outright fun of a combustion engine was something I was really finding hard to let go.
The other side is the previous electric cars that have been released have been from the top luxury car makers and well out of the price range of any normal working class person. Plus the distance you could get from a charge was hardly worth it.
But wouldn’t it be great if electric cars had the same range as petrols? You know, several hundred kilometres between charges so that you could drive around for a few days without even the slightest pang of range anxiety.
Well, believe it or not, that day could already be here as Hyundai’s Kona Electric can manage up to 449km (that’s the WLPT – Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure – claim) between plug-ins. It’s all down to a whopping great 64kWh battery, like those that, until recently, were found only in astronomically expensive Teslas.
So lets jump straight to the go fast bits, and yes it is a lot more surprising then I had ever imagined. There is engine here at all; pure electric. The Kona Electric has an electric motor and a single-speed transmission. The motor makes 150kW of power and 395Nm of torque. For a small SUV it is a decent amount of power which would be given a big thumbs up if it were petrol. The Kona EV can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds which is rather impressive.
As it is their first EV on the Worldwide market, the Kona Electric is front-wheel drive only. Officially, the combined electric driving efficiency is 131 Wh/km (watts x hours / km); I will let you do the math on that.
Charging the 356V lithium-ion polymer 64kWh battery from empty to 80 per cent takes nine hours and 35 minutes when using the 7.2kW on-board charger and a home wall unit which needs to be purchased separately.
Using a 50kW DC fast charger at a public filling station can charge the battery up from empty to 80 per cent in 75 minutes. A 100kW fast charger can do it in 54 minutes.
If you are doing any type of charging from your standard plug in the wall at home with an extension lead, you will be looking at a very, very long time to charge. It could be up to 19 hours, as I experienced in my testing. In saying that they are not meant to be used that way, but I just didn’t have a charging station at home or the office.
Driving a Kona Electric for the first time is something that I will remember well. It is nothing like anything else I have driven in the past and is a completely different experience to driving a petrol Kona. The instant torque of an electric engine makes for rapid acceleration anytime and any speed, whether you’re pulling away from the traffic lights or overtaking on a highway.
There is no turbo lag, no jerkiness that sometimes comes with a dual-clutch transmission, no engine noise and no tailpipe emissions. Driving the Kona Electric was a smooth and almost tranquil experience. However when you put the foot down in wet conditions it will break traction. All of the safety features get to work to prevent you from crashing but it happens.
With only a very space craft like hum, all other noises cannot be hidden from the occupants ears. The tyre/road noise is rather prominent, however if you turn up your tunes it drops away into more of a white noise.
Taking on corners in the Kona Electric was very different to its non EV cousin. It was a firm ride and seems to stick as lot better to the road. There is more confidence as a driver when behind the wheel of the EV.
The interior is very Kona. There are changes as the floor space is different, so they made use of it with extra shelfs and pockets. It is also loaded with features, even on the entry-grade Elite which comes standard with a leather interior, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, an Infinity stereo, digital radio, paddle shifters, climate control, a reversing camera, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, proximity key and rear privacy glass. The Elite also comes standard with the ‘Smart Sense’ safety package.
The interior is roomy up front with great storage in the form of two cup holders, big door pockets, a decent-sized bin under the armrest and a giant tray under the ‘floating’ centre console. It’s a different story in the back. The rear seats are tight, however this is basically the same as the petrol version; there just isn’t any room. You will find two cup holders in the fold down centre and small bottle holders.
While only the Highlander has wireless charging as standard, all Kona Electrics come with two USB ports and one 12-volt power outlet. The Kona Electric’s 332 litre cargo capacity is 39 litres less than the boot space of a petrol Kona – you can thank the batteries for that loss.
The Highlander adds LED headlights and tail-lights, a wireless charging pad, a sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, a head-up display, and a heated steering wheel.
When you start to talk price, this is where the conversation really starts to get hard. When you look at the top-of-the-range-petrol Kona, it lists for $39,000. When you look at the Kona Electric in the entry-grade Elite, it lists for $59,990 and the Highlander above it is $64,490. These prices make it the most expensive Hyundai in the range, however it is very different.
Look at it this way, anyone making a purely economic argument for EV in Australia right now, without transitional subsidies, has a long fight ahead of them. When all the figures are worked out, the savings right now really doesn’t out way the cost upfront.
As with all of the Hyundai range, the Kona Electric is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and has a life-time capped price service plan; to what they service we are yet to see.
Service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km and cost $165 each time.
Car and Bike News Opinion
The Kona Electric is a nice car for a small SUV. We do need to remember it is a small car and is an SUV. The electric thing comes second and the price is well, what it is.
At this stage, EV cars are so new and very under developed. We lack infrastructure, charging stations, and still rely on petrol and diesel far too much. That doesn’t mean you should rule this out. It is great to drive, has lots of power and does great things around big cities and the outer suburbs. Not going to be any good for long road trips or long travel holidays.
If you live around town and want to help the environment, maybe the Kona EV is for you. Just when you are testing it out at a dealer, don’t get too tied up on it being electric.