The Union budget presented last week saw strong emphasis being laid on the promotion and usage of electric vehicles. The Finance Minister announced a lower GST rate on electric vehicles as well as better interest rates on loans. This would amount to savings of nearly Rs 2.5 lakh if someone decides to buy one. Taking the lead this week was Korean carmaker Hyundai. The company launched its first EV in the market Kona whose biggest talking point is the long running range of 452 kms. Well we could not test that range at the Buddh International circuit but it certainly gave us an opportunity to understand the car is great detail.
When your car runs purely on batteries it gives the designers a lot of liberty to come out with a product that looks unique. The grille on the Kona is the biggest example of that. The intaglio pattern certainly sets it apart from conventional vehicles. The electric charging port is integrated with this grille area for convenient head-in parking at charging stations. The spilt type headlamp set-up with LED daytime running lights above and high-efficiency LED headlights below makes the car look sporty. There are many SUV characteristics here like square wheel arches, plastic cladding, roof rails as well as a rear spoiler. A bright-finish lower wave-like element visually connects the front and rear, as do contrasting gray fender flares. The idea is to ensure a design that helps increasing the range not bring it down; a case in point being lightweight aero design wheels.
If you’re used to similar looking cabins in Hyundai cars in India the Kona is a refreshing change. The car may not look too big from the outside but provides decent room inside. The first thing you notice is the electric’s exclusive Shift-by-wire drive controls which are very easy to use. The car gets a 17.77cm touch screen infotainment that is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It also displays all relevant information about battery range and dynamics. Apart from climate control the SUV also gets heating and ventilation for front seats. The driver’s seat is adjustable in 10 different ways electronically and the seats themselves get some high quality leather. The Kona also gets features like wireless charging and sunroof. Electric parking brake and metal pedals make it look more premium.
The Kona electric powertrain employs a 136 PS electric motor powered by a high-voltage 39.2 kWh advanced lithium-ion polymer battery which comes with liquid-cooling technology. The torque figure of 395 Nm is quite impressive and is distributed to the front wheels. This ensures the SUV goes from 0- 100 kmph in just 9.7 seconds. Despite all sportiness the silence in intriguing and the NVH levels are impressive to say the least. ARAI certified range of 452 km/charge is also an impressive figure and will certainly quell all range anxiety issues. There are driving modes (Eco+, Eco, Comfort and Sport) to optimize torque distribution. In Sport mode, there is a greater emphasis on acceleration, while Eco+ and Eco modes prioritize range over performance with more conservative power-delivery. At 7.2 kW rate of charge the battery is full in takes 6 hours and 10 minutes. Also an 80% charge can be achieved in 57 minutes with DC quick charger.
Ride & Handling
Yes, this is an electric but the Kona can give many other cars a run for their money when it comes to driving dynamics. The long wheelbase, short overhangs and wide track create a planted stance that results in an agile SUV. Hyundai says electric’s motor-driven power steering is more efficient than traditional hydraulic systems. It says the steering system is engineered and tuned specifically for rapid adjustments in steering feel with changing driving conditions. Ride quality wasn’t really put to test here but a multi-link rear suspension design should be able to do a decent job in real world conditions. The SUV gets 17-inch alloy wheels which feel perfectly sized for it. Overall based on our drive experience the Kona should be able to provide linear stability and ride comfort in real world conditions.
Peace of mind
Apart from the promised long range Hyundai says it will do all it can if you do decide to buy the Kona EV. Two chargers are being provided along with the car, a portable charger and an AC wall box charger. The portable charger can be plugged into any normal 3 Pin 15 amp socket and can top up daily running of 50 Kms in less than 3 Hours. Dealers will install sockets at customer’s premises and will also be equipped with 7.2 kW AC chargers themselves. Also for providing fast charging facility, Hyundai is working along with IOCL to develop infrastructure at select fuel stations. Finally the company is also giving a 3 Years and unlimited Kms, along with a warranty for 8 Years and up to 160,000 Kms for its high voltage battery.
Till now the Kona seems like a great product to own but will you be willing Rs 25.3 lakh to buy one? And if you’re wondering why is the cost so high, well around half the cost is just the batteries. For the remaining 50 % the company is giving you a car that scores well on every other parameter like design, features and performance. Hyundai is hoping the government will do a lot more for example lowering the taxes even more and providing cheaper electricity to those who own electric vehicles. And yes also including private electric vehicles in the FAME policy for promotion of EVs. Manufacturers like Hyundai are doing their bit and we hope all other stakeholders do the same.
Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars