These days, an EV needs a lot more than 124 miles of range to be relevant.
When the Hyundai Ioniq Electric went on sale early last year, it offered one the industry’s most compelling set of EV features: 124 miles of range, a price below $30,000, and a lot more passenger and cargo room than the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf, or Chevy Volt. In a sign that EV technology is moving at warp speed, that’s not nearly enough—just 18 months later.
“It will be a nice improvement but not like the Kona’s range,” said Hyundai’s Castillo.
So Hyundai is planning to increase the size of the Ioniq Electric’s battery pack next year, most likely with the 2020 model. “The Ioniq’s range will improve at the model-year change. It will get bigger,” said Gil Castillo, Hyundai’s senior group manager for alternative vehicle strategy, during our drive of the 258-mile Kona Electric last week.
“It will be a nice improvement but not like the Kona’s range,” said Castillo.
As we discussed in our first drive of the Kona EV, new EVs need two characteristics to be viable: more than 200 miles of range and a crossover body style.
Case in point: The Kia Niro plug-in hybrid, a small crossover, costs $2,000 more and is less efficient than the compact Ioniq PHEV. The plug-in Niro offers 26 miles of all-electric range compared to the Ioniq’s 29 miles. At the same time, the Niro’s 105 MPGe is handily beat by the Ioniq’s 119 MPGe.
“It doesn't matter that the Ioniq has better fuel economy,” said Castillo. “That doesn't matter as much as the body style, which is so much more important.” Despite its superlatives, Hyundai Ioniq plug-in hybrid sales this year are half as much as Kia sale of the Niro PHEV.
Even with a boost in battery size, the Ioniq Electric compact will struggle to get noticed at Hyundai dealership, when it’s sitting next to the 258-mile Kona EV crossover sport utility. That’s the case even though the Kona is converted from a gas-powered vehicle and the Ioniq is a purpose-built electrified platform. (The Kona EV is not on sale yet, but Hyundai has managed only 266 sales of the Ioniq Electric so far in 2018.)
Now that we know the Ioniq’s battery pack will get bigger next year, the question becomes how big? In the past couple of years, we saw Ford Focus Electric, Volkswagen E-Golf, and BMW i3 get model-year range upgrades of between 40 and 51 percent. A 50-percent increase in the Ioniq Electric’s range would bring it to 186 miles.