By on February 28, 2018

Hyundai Kona EV

Range anxiety remains the primary reason why most people don’t want to purchase an electric car. However, the overall recipe for today’s battery electric vehicles feels counter to what consumers are demanding. In the United States, all the top-selling electrics are whatever sedan or hatchback has a superior range. But, excluding the pricy Model X, there isn’t a single SUV or crossover among them (the Soul EV doesn’t count). Odd, considering that’s the body style most people are clamoring for right now.

That’s what makes Hyundai’s decision not to send the all-electric Kona immediately to North America a bit perplexing. We understand the brand probably feels some trepidation over sending another green car to the U.S. After all, the Ioniq could have performed better in its rookie year — despite being a totally serviceable alternative to Toyota’s Prius (as a hybrid) or Nissan’s Leaf (as a battery electric).

But the Kona EV has the potential to take the niche EV market by storm. Not only would it be the only electrified crossover that doesn’t require a lofty financial investment, it would also have an enviable range. More than enough to best the Chevrolet Bolt on a lengthy road trip, in fact.

That’s not to suggest Hyundai won’t eventually ship us the battery-powered Kona. We would wager the company’s bean counters are currently trying to assess the best way to deploy the vehicle. Presently, the Kona EV comes in two flavors — a basic model housing a 39.2 kWh battery pack (capable of hauling you 186 miles between charges) and a upscaled 64 kWh capacity version allowing for an estimated range of 292 miles. A full charge from a standard AC outlet will take over six hours, but Hyundai says it takes only 54 minutes on a DC fast-charger to restore around 80 percent of the car’s battery life.

As these are European specifications, we assume the EPA’s estimates will bring down the estimated range a tad. But these figures are still enough for the higher-spec trim to give Tesla Motors a run for its money, provided you aren’t thirsty for acceleration. While the Kona’s electric range is impressive, everything in Tesla’s lineup offers more power. But 133 horsepower and 291 lb-ft isn’t bad for the base model crossover — and the more expensive variant raises the bar to 201 horsepower and yields a 0-to-62 time of 7.6 seconds.

You’re also getting a desirable bodystyle with a normal-looking interior and enough funky flourishes (like a two-tone roof) to keep things modern on the outside. A front-facing charging port is a nice addition, too. Since most charging stations require you to pull into a parking space, we’ve long wondered why so many manufacturers have allocated the jacking area to the side of plug-in vehicles.

Add in an adjustable regenerative braking system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, wireless phone charging, and you’ve got yourself a nice little package. Both trims also come with Hyundai’s SmartSense, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision assist, lane keep assist, and blind spot warnings.

Hyundai hasn’t announced pricing but we’re absolutely positive it’ll come in far below Tesla’s $80,000 Model X. How much less remains to be seen, however. If the automaker can keep the base model around $30,000, that should place the decked-out version with the bigger battery up against the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt (with that sweet range advantage).

Of course, this is all under the assumption that Hyundai eventually brings the model to North America. So far, the company is only willing to say the Kona EV will hit Europe and South Korea later this year.

[Images: Hyundai]

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40 Comments on “Is Hyundai’s Electric Kona the EV North America Has Been Waiting For?...”


  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    It certainly looks better from the front than the ICE version.

    Seems like bringing it here would be a no-brainer.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    That’s 292 sunny and 75 degree miles. At 43 N and 76 W that weather is a distant memory for most of the year, that range will be a memory too.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Do you think range anxiety is what keeps people from buying electric cars? Maybe for some people, but for me (and some huge chunk of the population) the decision not to buy an electric car is all about living in a rental unit without any access to 220VAC.

    • 0 avatar
      Sub-600

      That’s a good point. Lots of people who rent have to park in the street too. We have odd/even parking here, can you imagine having to run a cord across the street all night? They need to get serious about charging stations before they can expect to crank out large numbers of EVs.

    • 0 avatar
      junkandfrunk

      I’d say it’s 30% range anxiety and 80% not having a place to plug in overnight. With renters outnumbering owners in many cities already, with that expected to rise, I think the “EV Revolution” may not really come to fruition.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Yeah, that’s the exact same problem my brother in Manhattan, NY, had years ago. No place to plug in even though he paid $50 a month for an outlet near his hi-rise parking space. Someone was always unplugging his Leaf to use the outlet my brother paid for. Piracy.

        So he sold the Leaf to a guy in Huntsville, AL who owns a Golf Course, and they all lived happily everafter.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I need to see a Leaf with its doors off being used as a golf cart.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            He doesn’t use the Leaf as a golf cart. The Leaf is his daily driver from home to the Golf course, and back.

            He lives on Magna Carta in Huntsville, the same street where my brother used to live before moving to NY,NY.

            So he has all-electric Golf Carts for the course and he gets to charge his Leaf for free.

            That Leaf has had zero problems even though it is used 7 days a week for the commute.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        Two things that will help fix that problem are starting to trickle out into the market. The first is 500 kW charging that will give you sub ten minutes charges. If this KIA was equipped for 500kWm, you could get an 80% charge in about 7 minutes. Not as quick as gas, but, liveable. The other is the beginning of oil companies to add charging to their stations. Right now, it’s mainly in Europe, but it could make it over here. Tesla will have it’s mega-chargers, but I’m not sure of how powerful they will be.

        https://www.chargepoint.com/products/commercial/express-plus/

        https://www.engadget.com/2017/11/27/shell-build-ev-charging-stations-europe/

    • 0 avatar
      Asdf

      It shouldn’t be necessary to have a place to park an EV to charge it (e.g. overnight), one should expect chargers to be available in public places, and for the charging process to be as quick as filling a tank of petrol. Until this is a reality, EVs are dead on arrival.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @asdf: Not true. From personal experience, home charging, if you can do it, is far superior to public charging. It’s like owning something powered by a perpetual motion machine. EVs have performance advantages over ICE and are far from being dead on arrival.

      • 0 avatar
        Groovypippin

        The other major problem as I see is that as energy density improves and charging times are reduced, the depreciation on electric vehicles from “this” generation with their poor range and long charging times will be utterly catastrophic.

        I also see too little said about battery degradation and the enormous cost of battery replacement in current EVs. If you own a Leaf that needs a new battery, you own a doorstop.

        • 0 avatar
          jansob

          This is one of my biggest gripes. Everyone has learned from phones and laptops that batteries get worse and worse over time, but this seems to be ignored in the puff pieces about EVs. “292 miles! Wow!” (In 5 years, it’ll be 200, IF you live in a mild climate…if you need more range, pony up another 6 grand to replace the pack in your already expensive car).
          I really can’t imagine most people not being better off with a hybrid. My father-in-laws’ Prius is 12 years old, has had nothing but scheduled maintenance and has lost only a few percent in economy…and he doesn’t have to work charging time to his daily schedule. Plus in our area the electric power mix is 45% coal, 50% gas, and 5% wind, so how much cleaner is the electric really?
          They do have their place, and if you have a short commute or you run a delivery business with predictable routes, great. But for the average person, hybrid is the way to go at this time.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with your point on hybrids. I personally believe the true EV does not have a place and the entire “market” is/was artificially created which is why resale is so poor. Thank your social betters /s

          • 0 avatar
            tekdemon

            Please stop making nonsense up about EV batteries. The reason why iPhone batteries degrade so badly is because they use tiny batteries that end up getting charged to 100% on a daily basis and drained down on a daily basis. Other phone manufacturers that use larger batteries have better battery longevity and EV manufacturers go the extra step and strongly limit how much time the battery spends over 90% or under 10% charge states. Being highly charged up or highly depleted is where most battery wear occurs, and by limiting how much time cars spend in that range you prevent degradation.

            Why do you think 2008 Tesla Roadsters with high miles are still being sold for $50K+? A new replacement battery for these runs about $20-30K so if they were unreliable the resale would be horrendous but the resale value on these are excellent. You’re delusional if you really think the batteries wear out to the extent you’re claiming, in the real world even these 10 year old EVs have only lost about 10% range.

            As for the electricity mix, for the vast majority of folks it’s cleaner to drive a pure EV than a hybrid though not by a huge amount, so if you live in a place with lots of coal power then a hybrid is of course a very reasonable option. But for the US as a whole the electricity mix and transmission costs mean EVs pollute the equivalent of a car getting 72mpg on gas. I happen to live in a place with primarily hydro and nuclear power, so there’s really zero emissions around here with EVs and obviously you can also change where your power comes from by installing solar panels and whatnot.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Luxurious apartment living with stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops, and reserved EV charging/parking spaces. Of course, your reserved charging/parking space will be another $150 a month (plus electricity). Landlords are just wondering who will go first. I still don’t understand why one of the major truck stop chains don’t install chargers. Stop, swipe credit/debit card, plug in, go take care of business, order fast food, get coffee, leave. The only questionis; is this a viable business model?

  • avatar
    Asdf

    All EVs in the marketplace so far have been defective by design, with their short range, long charging times and extortionate prices. Unfortunately, the Kona doesn’t seem to address these problems, which begs the question what the point of launching it was, since it also comes as an ICE-powered version without these flaws. Hyundai should have dropped the electric version.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @asdf: There are a lot of different types of vehicles on the road. If you need to tow a 50′ trailer and carry 4×8 sheets of plywood, a Miata may not be the car for you. If you want a convertible that you can autocross on weekends, an F-350 might not be what you want. There are choices in seating and missions in the different vehicles available to purchase. You pick what you want. That’s what choice is all about. I happen to like what I like – which ranges from polluting gas guzzlers to EVs. I decide for myself what is an inadequate range, long fueling times, and excessive cost.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      292 mile range goes a long way towards addressing range issues.

      And no, 52 minutes isn’t the same as 5 minutes to fill up a gas car, but your car doesn’t fill itself up in your garage overnight while you sleep.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @asdf: You troll the same response *every time*. At least now you’re not limiting your charging tripe to Tesla only.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The industry is effectively forced to subsidize these poor selling models from profits on ICEs. Because tyranny. Gov really doesn’t care if there is a business case, the agenda will be fulfilled no matter the financial or environmental cost.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        And gasoline cars aggravated my kid’s asthma. That’s real tyranny. I’d rather Uncle Sam kick in a tax credit for EVs and folks LITERALLY breathe free. Externalities exist, 28, and they kill people.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          So, society has to completely alter itself and billions upon billions need to be spent because a fraction of the population suffers from asthma? Your biases as a parent are showing, not to mention the different types of pollution which will be generated by meeting your mandate on a grand scale. I also doubt you care about the mis-allocation of capital in order to produce a statically insignificant environmental impact. Not your money, just so long as you get what you want, right?

          I sympathize as my mother and a sibling also suffer from asthma. I do not but suffer from other allergies. I’ll put a call into he White House and ask the President to rearrange the nation so the three of us have better health.

          People are ultimately the cause of many environmental problems. Too many people in a place at one time. If you want to change the world for the better of us all, figure out a palatable solution to the people problem.

          Good, fast, cheap, pick two.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Society “completely altered itself” and spent billions upon billions, in transportation, manufacturing, and energy sectors, to alleviate earlier lead and particulate pollution problems. There is zero question that the return on those investments was well worth their cost. (The drop in airborne lead is a leading candidate for the primary cause of the major crime drop over the last 25 years.) I think the same would be true for eliminating the VOCs and remaining particulates that get emitted at cold start and by poorly running or pre-emissions engines, and the smog-generating NOx that’s getting emitted all the time but especially by older diesels.

            In the end, it is far cheaper and more effective to manage airborne pollution by controlling a small number of large sources than by trying to control a huge number of tiny ICEs, many of which are owned by idiots who either neglect them or deliberately cause them to emit more pollution.

            Use ICEs for those applications where they work best (rural driving and long-haul trucking) and use EVs for the urban and short-haul stuff.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    It may be marginally more attractive, but I don’t see how it’s any more practical than a Chevy Bolt. Neither seem to have much space behind the rear seats, and there’s no mention of AWD, it doesn’t have much ground clearance.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    If you’re a homeowner you have to do the plug conversion as well to get the higher charge rate. That can get expensive. Electric cars are more expensive right now. So that takes away from the appeal. Electricity is very expensive in the state I live in. So there is a lot to think about. The reason they are not bringing it to the US may be battery supply related. The US also has a much more diverse climate.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @bluegoose: When I first got my car, my NEMA 14-50 charging outlet wasn’t installed. I pulled the car next to the laundry room and ran the cord through the window. My outdoor outlets are 20amp, so I was able to use my adjustable charger at 18 to 19 amps which did a decent job of charging the car overnight. Also, unless you are driving 200 miles a day, a 120-volt outlet is fine for charging. I usually only drive 10 to 12 miles in a day. That’s only a fraction of my range and the recharge time is nothing.

  • avatar
    Odiemac

    Maybe there aren’t any products in EV SUV category because their efficiency (and range) is pretty awful? The old Rav4 EV had a 41kwh battery and only went about 125 miles, and a theoretical Model X 60kwh would probably go less than 200 miles EPA. The Bolt does 238 miles with a 60kwh battery, I imagine even the top-spec 64kwh Kona EV would be significantly less than that.

    So, how does a $50,000 Hyundai with a 130 to 200 mile range sound to you? Not so hot for the US market, eh?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Niro EV with a 64kwh pack will get something around 238 miles on a charge.

      The new Soul EV (likely with a smaller battery) will get around 186 miles.

      The reason why we may not get the Kona EV is b/c Hyundai is working on a crossover built on a dedicated EV platform (which presumably will have a longer range).

  • avatar
    whistle-tips

    I don’t get how you think the price is going to be cheap compared to Tesla or the Bolt. The base model will match up to better than the Bolt. But all you have to do is look what happens to a Tesla when you get the “optional bigger battery”. The Model 3 is $50,000 right now. I figure the long range version of this would be $45K.

    As why charge points are on the side when typically public charging spots have the chargers at the front… Most EV owners rarely charge outside their garage. With a long range battery like this you’ll charge at home most of the time. And people tend to have more clearance in their garage on the side of the car than at the front. In California where EVs sell right now, the front of the garage will be loaded up with storage, possibly your furnace or even your washer/dryer.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…we’ve long wondered why so many manufacturers have allocated the jacking area to the side of plug-in vehicles”

    Uh, the best-selling EV, the Nissan Leaf, has always had its charging port in the nose.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Q: “Is Hyundai’s Electric Kona the EV North America Has Been Waiting For?”

    A: No, it’s too small inside. The EV I’m waiting for is the Kia version embodied in the Niro EV. It’s very roomy inside, and it will beat the mythical Model Y to market by a very long time.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      If Kia brings the Niro EV over, it’ll have to battle not only with the new Soul EV (less range than the Niro, but 186 miles should be enough for many potential EV buyers) and a new dedicated EV crossover from Hyundai.

      Having said that, aside from those specifically looking for an EV (or at least a PHEV), for most buyers, the short-term answer/gateway to “electrification” will be mild hybrids.

      Get 65-70% of the benefit of a hybrid at a much lower cost.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    IMO there’s several factors shooting widespread EV adoption in the foot.

    First, is the cost of the vehicle. While some of us qualify for the EV tax break, many folks do not. Even if they can pony up that kind of money for a car, typically you can get a nicer car with an ICE motor.

    Second, for some, their depreciation is steep. While this is great for skinflints like me (buying used), not everyone wants to buy used or lease for eternity.

    Three, with the state of the art changing seemingly monthly and a lack of a public charging infrastructure, there are a few more hindrances. It’s more about value than money, if we’re precise.

    With the technology changing constantly, my 16KW car now seems a bit pricey compared to the new 32KW car that just came out for approximately the same money as my old car.

    I can understand why there’s a lot of hesitation to buy one, especially if you don’t have the money to have a second car or can take the steep depreciation. I still think the folks who are not buying these to be “mode of the day” have to fit their lives to the car and not the other way around.

    My youngest wants to get a new car. I would love to see her in an electric car. She did not inherit the mechanical gene in the family. She doesn’t drive far (maybe 8-10K miles/year), mostly to work and right now she has no children of her own to haul around. Something like a Leaf or a 500e would be great for her. But even with the depreciated used ones on the market, I’m still hesitant to recommend one, even though I want one for myself.

    I guess we’ll wait it out a little longer.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Infrastructure is really only a problem for longer-range EVs. My 12 Leaf had such a short range that I never ventured more than 25 miles radius from home, and only used remote chargers a few times in 3 years. My annual mileage was about 9000.

      The problem with depreciated EVs (like the Leaf) is the reason they’re depreciated – battery degradation. I wouldn’t buy a used Leaf for that reason, but I wouldn’t worry about a used Tesla’s battery. But a used $40k Tesla is also the same price as a new EV with similar range, which presents a different dilemma – who wants to spend $40k on a used car?

  • avatar
    SqueakyVue

    I’m as excited bas the next guy for a decent looking EV I can use for road trips. That being said is this an article or a Hyundai puff piece?

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I’m not sure the Kona actually would exceed the Bolt’s range, apples to apples. Considering that 292 miles quoted is on the Euro cycle, and Opel Germany claims their version of the Bolt (the Ampera-E) is good for 520km (322 miles). I’m assuming that on the EPA cycle, the Kona would come in around 210-220 miles (also, it’s a bit slower). That said, that’s still pretty respectable, and being a crossover with a nicer interior and a more trusted name should mean it could outsell a shrunken minivan with a Daewoo-grade interior.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The reason that most companies aren’t stupid enough to put the charge port in the front end is that is far and away more likely to be damaged in a light accident that would otherwise leave the vehicle usable. Mess up the charge door so it won’t open or won’t close once you do open it and the car is rendered useless from a light impact. In a heavier impact now you may need to replace the wiring harness as well as the port and door. So the smart place is to put it on the side of the car where it is less likely to get damaged.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    The market does not need another small EV, though one styled like a tiny SUV would assuredly sell better than one styled like an inflatable hatchback. We really need a compact to midsize CUV. I know, I know, weight and aerodynamics will make them horribly inefficient–but if people can trade “up” from a 36 mpg Civic to a 24 mpg CRV without complaint, maybe they could stomach trading “up” from 240 to 180 miles of range.

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