The Hyundai Ioniq is the first EV to come from the Korean car maker and at $60,000 it is the lowest priced mainstream EV you can buy in New Zealand. The BMW i3 for example, comes in at $75,000. The Nissan Leaf is available as a used import vehicle only, although the next generation Leaf was recently unveiled in Japan.
It’s a conventional looking car, apart from the lack of a grille at the front, and inside it looks normal as well. OK, the gear-lever has been replaced with a set of buttons, but it has been a while since any automatic gearbox had an actual mechanical connection to a lever in the cabin, so why not.
Of course, being an EV most of the interesting bits are under the skin. The 88kW electric motor can pull the car along with acceleration that almost feels obscene in a ‘green’ car, but it’s the 28kWh battery pack that allows Hyundai to say the car has a ‘real world’ range of 200km.
And that sounds like a challenge, hold my beer etc.
Tauranga just happens to be around 200km from Auckland and I just happen to have relatives that will allow me to crash there for the night.
But first, the planning. The margins are tight, so let’s plan an alternative route that goes through Thames, where there’s a fast charger that will take around 30 minutes to charge the car to 85%. That’s a bit of a detour though, so it will remain an alternative. There are a few other places along the way you can charge the car, but I would need an adapter I don’t have, so I stick with the plan I have.
The other issue is heating and cooling. Air conditioning in any car uses power. But while heating in a normal car uses waste heat from the engine heating an EV needs an electric heater. This is an issue, since it’s the middle of winter. The Ioniq Elite tested here has heated seats front and rear, as well as a heated steering wheel. Heating someone directly is far more efficient than blowing hot air at them, but on this trip only occasional use of the seat and steering heat will be made
. Otherwise it’s down to a sturdy jacket and extra pairs of socks if necessary.
I wish I could regal you with tales of hardship and stress, but other than finding out how bone chilling a car with no heat at all can be, the Ioniq made it to Tauranga for a total distance of 226km with a small 16km reserve. All it required was regular checks of both the car’s estimation of when it would run out of power and how much further it was to the destination.
The Ioniq helps, with displays that show almost too information of power usage, including a quite handy display of how many killowatts the engine, electrics, and heating/cooling systems are using. It is interesting to note that when driving at a constant 90km/h the heating system can use more power than the engine.
I chose 90km/h for most of the trip down, but on the way back I diverted through Thames and the fast charger there and found that open road speed didn’t affect the power usage too much. The Ioniq has a very low drag shape, and you can feel that in the way it doesn’t slow down much when you lift off the accelerator.
The Ioniq drives much like any other car, with a slightly harsher ride than most small cars but there is the usual safe understeer that builds as cornering speed increases. As it is an EV the Ioniq can use regenerative braking (regen in EV speak) that converts deceleration to power generation. For this, Hyundai has added paddles behind the steering wheel that allow the driver to select the level of braking, from gentle to hefty enough that you hardly need to use the brake in traffic. On maximum regen the Ioniq comes almost to a stop without you having to touch the brake pedal.
Oh yes, the brake pedal. It’s spongy and unresponsive, and the transition between regen and physical brake pads is jerky and uncomfortable. It’s difficult to write software to handle this, and this probably shows most where Hyundai has managed to keep the costs down.
Most owners will never use an EV to test the limits of range, but rather have a charger at home that recharges the car overnight for the next day’s driving. It does raise the question of recharging an EV at houses that don’t have off road parking, which does limit the appeal of an EV in some areas.
The average EV will remain a city car for now, but progress marches on, and while there is debate over eventual forms of power the EV is the most likely way forward for the foreseeable future.