The first thing that strikes you about the new Hyundai Ioniq electric vehicle range is how normal they look.
Unlike Tesla, or even the Toyota Prius if you go back a decade, there is no attempt to make this electric vehicle look any different from, or any more virtuous than, an internal combustion engine car.
And that is a deliberate move by the manufacturer. If Tesla’s goal was to take the electric vehicle away from the golf course to a “high end” and high performance vehicle, Hyundai’s goal is to make electric the new normal.
“We don’t want our cars to look like an experiment,” says Scott Nargar, the company’s head of future mobility.
The company wants its new electric range to become a normal choice, and to encourage that it is releasing the car in three versions – hybrid, plug in hybrid and full battery electric.
The only way to tell the difference between the full electric and the hybrids at quick glance is that the full electric Ioniq does not have a grill.
Nargar says the range is to allow for the varying budgets, and comfort zones of their customers. Not everyone wants to go full battery electric. But the data suggests that most do .
Hyundai’s experience overseas so far is that the sales have gone about 50 per cent full electric, 30 per cent plug in, and 20 per cent hybrid.
It expects a similar reaction in Australia, but I suspect the full battery electric will do better. And that’s where our interest lies. Besides, it’s the most fun.
The pricing – about $A45,000 for the full electric , plus on road costs – means that the Ioniq the first full electric with a decent range (in this caae 280kms) to break the $A50,000 mark.
That doesn’t quite get us to the mass-market, but it is getting there.
Hyundai recently hosted a series of “test drives” for the motoring community (journalists and motoring clubs etc) in and around Brisbane.
And if the look of the vehicles is designed to be “normal” or average, albeit aero-dynamic with some nice lines, then the driving experience is everything but.
The experience of the full electric is clean, from the moment you push the button to switch it on. It is silent, but for some road noise, there is no engine growl and there are no fumes. No vibrations.
Even more delightfully, the electric experience is one of instant response. It is quick, clean and smart.
One important thing about electric vehicles – apart from the fact that the experience is clean and really fun to drive – is that they invite you to think differently about your car.
And this doesn’t just apply to the way you charge (or refuel) the car – you might now want to do that every day at home or at work rather than once a week at the petrol pump – but also in your driving habits.
The Ioniq EV – like all other EVs –has a feature not found in ICE cars – regenerative braking. It means that the EV can use the act of slowing down to recharge the battery.
That makes for a different experience for the driver. In the Ioniq, you can choose to coast, or you can choose different levels of regenerative braking. (Hear our conversation about this in our latest The Driven podcast).
The highest level of regenerative braking is quite “grippy”. Some people may not like it, but I do. I like the sensation and control of what will become known as “one pedal” driving.
And with the added weight of the battery, tucked in under the back seat and the boot, the car has a low centre of gravity. It hugs the road, and as mentioned before, the response from the electric motor is smooth and immediate.
I really can’t underline just how much fun it is to drive. In the country, I prefer manuals over automatics because I like to be in control and “feel” the car. I like electric even more.
Even in the city traffic, stopped at lights, the absence of engine noise is a blessed relief. In adaptive cruise mode, you wouldn’t even need to touch the pedals.
And you can feel good about the reduced emissions, even if you can’t charge it with your own solar.
What’s more, the various “driving” modes – eco, normal and sporty – have added meaning in an EV because it can be tailored to suit the preferences of just about any driver, and locations – from the office commute to the weekend drive.
And sporty, even in this family car with a 28kWh battery it is exactly that – in this mode, the Ioniq really has a bit of spunk – it reminds of my small but zippy (and manual) Peugeot 207.
(One small point here. I didn’t get to drive the plug in hybrid but my driving partner David Brown did, and he reported that the motor kicks in on hills and the like – so don’t assume you will necessarily go 63kms without fossil fuels as you might expect from other PHEVs).
The big question for everyone about EVs right now is the cost – which should be coming down as battery prices fall – and the charging, which is a matter of both more education, and more infrastructure.
Experience suggests that 90 per cent of charging will be done at home. If your regular commute and running around is less than 50kms a day, you may only need to charge every few days. But you can top it up every day at home if you want.
You can buy a JetCharge home charger, rated at 7kW, for around $1,995, supplied and fitted. That will charge the car in about 4.5 hours.
Fast charging infrastructure is gradually being deployed around the country, but there are enough to deal with an emergency. And the app in the car can tell you exactly where the nearest charging station is, and gives you clear data about how many kilometers are left in the tank.
The Ioniq is be the first of the Hyundai range, and will soon be followed by the Kona electric SUV, and other models.
Nargar says Hyundai is pursing electrification on the hydrogen front too – but The Driven suspects that it will be the battery powered vehicles that will likely take the lead, at least for domestic light cars.
And where will you find one? Hyundai is starting out at around 18 of its dealerships and gradually expand from there.
This is so it can test the market, but it also requires special training for the dealers in all things electric, and a bit of a mind-shift too.
It’s less of a challenge for the consumer. All you need to do is get into one and have a test drive. The common saying is that once you’ve driven electric, you don’t want to go back to an ICE. Then it’s just a matter of your budget.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of www.TheDriven.io, and also edits and founded RenewEconomy.com.au and OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au. He has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.