Hyundai Hopes to Boost Kona Electric Interest With Mountainous Publicity Stunt

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
hyundai hopes to boost kona electric interest with mountainous publicity stunt

Hyundai Motor Group India hopes to grow interest in the Kona Electric by having the subcompact crossover become the first EV to drive to Mount Everest’s base camp. While demand for the model has so far been relatively low, with deliveries averaging roughly 100 units per month in the U.S., it’s performed rather well globally (for an EV). Hyundai has one of the best ratios of plug-in sales in the industry — with about 5 percent of global sales going toward something rechargeable.

The figures vary month to month, but Hyundai has been able to consistently rely on at least 4,000 EV sales per month through 2019. In October, Hyundai said it shipped over 8,000 plug-in models, with continued growth anticipated through the end of this year.

Unfortunately, Indian auto sales aren’t particularly healthy. Volume is down over 30 percent vs last year and Hyundai promised $250 million to the nation to further the sales of electric and hybrid vehicles. EV sales are particularly bad, with estimates of all-electric passenger vehicles being no higher than 10,000 units (total) over the last five years. The brand likely figured a regionally focused publicity stunt might help boost interest in Asia while giving international markets a similar bump. After all, everyone in the world has heard of Everest and the dangerous ascent to its peak.

The Kona probably won’t have to contend with frozen corpses and treacherous crevasses, however. China actually built a road leading up to the mountain’s North Base Camp (17,000 ft up!) and that appears to be the path Hyundai has chosen to take. The drive began at Tibet’s capital of Lhasa on Saturday, led by mountaineer Ajeet Bajaj (who probably won’t have to do any climbing).

It’s not clear which model Hyundai has taken to the mountain. Indian-spec Kona Electrics use a 39.2-kWh battery pack that’s substantially smaller than the unit we get here in North America. Still, there would be questions about range either way. While mostly paved, the 450-mile road cuts through some of the most desolate terrain on the planet, with few stops being capable of recharging EVs. The Kona will have depleted its battery several times over on the frigid journey, likely requiring some kind of support team to come with.

At its core, this is a publicity stunt designed to make the Kona Electric more appealing — both in India and abroad. It also allows Hyundai to showcase the advantages of electrification at high elevations where internal combustion vehicles begin wheezing for air. But it’s not the same as the model driving up the mountain, which wouldn’t have been possible anyway.

This author doesn’t care. Even if Hyundai takes a few demerits for making this endeavor — which it has charmingly entitled “Emission Impossible” — seem more daunting than it truly is, it’s still getting eyes on one of the most enjoyable mainstream EVs currently available. This is one of the only electrics I would actually miss if it ended up suddenly being discontinued, as it makes for a enjoyable urban runabout — even if it is too expensive at $36,950 (to start).

More importantly, these are the kinds of stunts people who actually like cars can appreciate and argue about. It throws down the gauntlet, hopefully encouraging other manufacturers to attempt something similarly bold … or bolder. Remember how much publicity Ford got for pulling a train with the F-150’s electric prototype? That video received over 2 million views on Ford’s YouTube channel and was shared countless times. We don’t expect Hyundai to manage the same with its road trip to Everest, but it’s on the right track.

[Images: Hyundai Motor Group]

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  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Dec 18, 2019

    Forget base camp. My F-150 made the Summit (Northeast Ridge Route) on summer tires and achieved 26.2mpg on the way up.

    • See 2 previous
    • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Dec 21, 2019

      @ToolGuy Interestingly, the electric motors on the vehicle (wipers, power mirrors, power seats, HVAC fan) stopped functioning one by one as we gained altitude. (Something about the effect of altitude on the motor windings? I'm not sure. But now it makes sense that only gasoline-powered vehicles are used on the moon.)

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