Hyundai’s Kona EV is selling like hotcakes here in Australia, our review is coming soon, and now World Rally Championship event winner Hayden Paddon’s team is developing a world-leading all-electric Kona EV rally car.
Currently in the design stage, the Kona EV should be making its first test sometime in April next year with the teams aim of making this car the first rally car capable of completing a full length event with only electric power.
Paddon is working with Hyundai New Zealand, the University of Canterbury and the Stohl Advanced Research and Development – Manfred Stohl’s team, which is already providing an electric solution for rallycross.
“The car’s going to be a showstopper in terms of performance,” said Paddon to Autosport.com in Central Otago, New Zealand.
“Alternative energy powerplants are evolving very quickly in the consumer-focused car sector, but the same developments are not as widespread in motorsport and certainly not in rallying.
“Not unlike most motorsport enthusiasts and their first impressions of the concept, I thought: ‘Not EV!
“But the more I thought about it, the more potential I could see to align top-tier rallying with the technology aims of major vehicle manufacturers.”
With electric cars beginning to get a lot of focus from manufactures, and of course hybrid cars already driving around the streets, the WRC will introduce hybrid technology in 2022.
The 2016 Rally Argentina winner admits the new car will bring challenges.
“From some of the EV technology that already exists, performance is already there – some cars have up to 1000bhp,” he said.
“It’s how you harness that performance for rallying, for example with torque vectoring for gravel or low-grip situations and the range needed to complete a full day’s rallying.
“Rallying opens up more challenges [for electric] compared to circuit racing in terms of range, charging systems and sound.
“When we find solutions for these elements, many will be applicable to the general road user and EV car owner.”
One of the key challenges in rallying will be ensuring the car makes enough noise to warn spectators and rally officials of its arrival.
“I’m committed to making sure our car creates the kind of noise a rally fan enjoys,” said Paddon.
“From an entirely practical point of view, a rally car needs to create a loud and distinctive sound for the safety of everybody enjoying the action.”
The plan is to run the Kona EV rally car on domestic New Zealand events next season, with a second prototype – complete with extended range – in the pipeline for 2021.
Paddon recently announced a long-term deal with New Zealand electricity supply firm YES Power – an agreement that will serve both the new project and his hopes of a return to the WRC.
He parted with Hyundai’s factory team at the end of last season and a planned return with M-Sport for Rally Finland was curtailed by a testing crash.
Talking of the potential for getting back into the WRC, Paddon told Autosport: “The chances are good. We’re working with M-Sport right now and that’s a real focus for me.
“I’ve got to be honest, I’ve had a few bumps in the road and what happened in Finland was just another one.
“I brushed it off and I’m now working on the new plan to get back there.”