If there’s an electric vehicle revolution happening, it’s happening in waves. First came the science experiments and cobbled-together compliance cars, expensive and only marginally practical; then, high-dollar, high-performance products for the few (this is the domain of Tesla, and companies like Porsche want in). Now we’re looking at a tide of EVs with true mass-market potential: practical, mainstream and relatively affordable offerings with comfortable ranges offered by major automakers.
And you can’t get more mainstream than a subcompact crossover. hence, the Hyundai Kona Electric. The EV will make its real-world debut at the 2018 Geneva motor show, but it’s been revealed online ahead of that.
Hyundai says the Kona Electric is the world’s first fully electric subcompact SUV — good timing on the automaker’s part, given how popular these things are becoming. And if you consider a slightly lifted, moderately ruggedized hatchback to be an SUV, then yeah, they’re right. Its looks and stance will help separate it from the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Bolt and even the Tesla Model 3, which are all vaguely similar in size.
Inside the Kona Electric. Note the gear selector buttons on the center console.
In case you haven’t noticed, Hyundai seems to be rolling out vehicles with every sort of powertrain imaginable: gasoline, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell (which we just test-drove in the form of the Hyundai Nexo) and electric. It might seem scattershot, but we can see the underlying logic; globally, different markets are facing different regulatory regimes. What works in one country might be banned in another in the coming decades, and besides, no one is really sure what future tech will stand the test of time.
Electric vehicles seem to be a safe bet. Though they’re just a tiny fraction of the global automotive market and seem destined to remain that way for quite some time, they dwarf the number of hydrogen-powered cars on the road. And adding charging stations to home garages or apartment parking lots is a lot easier than building a complete hydrogen infrastructure.
The Kona Electric cruising down some Highway of Tomorrow
As for the Kona Electric production specs: It will be offered with two powertrains. The big one gets a 64 kWh battery and a 150 kw motor (that’s about 201 hp), and it’s good for 292 miles of range. Plus, if you’re less concerned with maxing out that range, it’ll do 0-62 mph in 7.6 seconds — not exactly Ludicrous Mode, but not bad for this sort of vehicle. The base version gets a 39.2 kWh battery, a 99 kw battery and a 186-mile range. On a DC quick charger, you’ll be able recharge either version to 80 percent capacity in about 54 minutes.
Hyundai seems to be using this vehicle as a tech showcase, so it comes loaded with the company’s SmartSense safety and driving assistance features. Smart cruise control, lane keeping and lane following aren’t exclusive to the Kona Electric by any means, but it’s unusual for them to come standard on a vehicle in this size class.
Hyundai hasn’t commented on potential North American availability for the Kona Electric, nor do we have a sense of what such a vehicle would cost if it went on sale here. But from its body style to its very usuable range, it seems logic enough. While we’re waiting for US market news, we’ll let you know what it’s like in person in Geneva.