Riding on the government’s push to propel electric mobility in India, Hyundai brought in its first electric vehicle (EV) – the Kona Electric, amidst much fanfare. Standing testament to the company’s vision and efforts to promote EVs across the globe, the Kona Electric has been designed to make it more suited for Indian conditions. With testing carried out on an India-specific driving cycle, the Kona Electric is slated to offer an ARAI-certified range of 452 km, which may prove to be an optimal solution that wards off range anxiety woes among potential buyers. And to get a better understanding of the product, Auto Tech Review briefly tested the new EV at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC). Here is our take on the Hyundai Kona Electric that may spearhead the acceptance of EVs in India.
PROPULSION AND ENERGY STORAGE
Being an EV, the Kona Electric is miles ahead of the current petrol and diesel models on offer in terms of engineering and technology. The compact electric SUV features a Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor (PMSM) that helps propel the car. This motor has been fitted and designed to replicate what looks like the engine in a traditional internal combustion model. The PMSM transfers power to a single speed reduction gear that drives the front wheels of this compact electric SUV. Capable of producing roughly 395 Nm of torque, the motor also serves up a nifty 134 hp. With peak torque available from the moment you begin rolling, the Kona Electric can easily surprise most drivers, who have not experienced electric vehicles. Accelerating from standstill to a 100 km/h in a matter of 9.7 s, the electric system brushes aside any doubts about performance and speed.
The PMSM draws its power from a large lithium-ion polymer battery pack. With a new platform on the Kona Electric, Hyundai has been able to execute space-saving integration of the battery pack, while not compromising on space in the new EV. The company has opted to use a lithium-ion polymer instead of conventional nickel-metal hybrid batteries, aiding a lower memory sensitivity and excellent charge & discharge efficiency, along with a highly optimised maximum output.
The battery set-up on the Hyundai Kona Electric is capable of holding 39.2 kWh of charge, and along with a newly-developed Battery Thermal Management system, it helps deliver higher battery efficiency and battery life. The system offers water cooling through the air-conditioning system and is heated by an electric heating element to maintain optimal conditions for the battery pack.
While the lithium-ion battery provides ample capacity to hold charge, one will need to charge the vehicle from time to time and this will not be as simple as fuelling up at a gas station. To improve the convenience of charging, Hyundai will be offering a 7.2 kW AC wall box charger that can be installed at a customer’s desired premises free of cost. The charger takes 6 h 10 min to completely charge the battery pack. Hyundai will also be offering a 2.8 kW in-cable control box (ICCB) on the new Kona Electric. The ICCB can be used in a normal wall socket, but takes roughly 19 h to completely charge the batteries. It can be beneficial in emergency situations, taking up to 3 h to charge batteries to deliver a 50 km range. While these chargers are adequate enough to offer charging convenience at home or in office, Hyundai has ensured there are DC fast charging outlets in select Tier I cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. The company has tied up with IOCL to install four 50 kW CSS Type-2 fast chargers in four cities. These are capable of juicing up the batteries to 80 % in just 57 min. However, one will still need to wait at the refuelling station to charge the electric vehicle.
Predominantly, the Kona Electric has an architecture that is different from traditional IC-powered models. Owing to many different components, engineers have been able to successfully design a more flexible layout on the Kona Electric that can be adapted easily. Bringing the Kona Electric to India, Hyundai has made a few changes to make the vehicle suited for Indian roads. We found out that the vehicle suspension has been worked on to increase the ground clearance. Considering this is an SUV, body roll was evident on the track; however, the acceleration and driveability of this compact electric SUV is what makes it really pleasing to throw about.
Hyundai has implemented a shift-by-wire system on the Kona Electric and drivers can choose between Drive, Neutral, Park and Reverse simply by the push of a button. Along with this system comes an electronic parking brake. Not only does this save space but adds a refreshing touch to the interiors as well. Switch the vehicle into drive mode, ease of the brakes and the vehicle will creep forward effortlessly. The accelerator is rather sensitive and if you give it too much pressure, the Kona Electric gets going in a hurry.
As soon as we were out of the pit lane, I floored the accelerator in a bid to get a feel just how much the electric motor can deliver. To my surprise, the Kona Electric was not only quick but remarkably silent. Hyundai has worked on a Virtual Engine Sound System to ensure pedestrian safety. Despite this and the lack of the ambient hum from an IC engine, the Kona Electric was silent. Hyundai has optimised the NVH to a great extent on the Kona Electric; it is only at speeds in excess of 140 km/h could I hear the wind and tyre noise seep into the cabin.
In turns and corners, the Kona handles itself quite well. Hyundai has built-in features such as vehicle stability management (VSM), electronic stability control (ESC) and anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD) to ensure a safer drive. While accelerating hard on the track and through turns, one does feel the marginal body roll but the Kona Electric is quite forgiving and if needed, the stability systems kick in seamlessly to alter and correct course. The all-wheel disc brake system is also effective and the Kona Electric displays excellent corner braking and emergency braking characteristics. And to enhance the vehicle’s state of charge, Hyundai has also fitted in a regenerative braking system; the level of regenerative braking can be controlled via paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Whenever the driver eases off the acclerator, the systems activate a charging cycle for the battery; this to some extent also improves the driving range of the compact electric SUV.
KITTED UP FOR COMFORT & CONVENIENCE
While we only had a brief encounter with the Kona Electric, it was quite evident that the company has given it just the right amount of bells and whistles to offer customers ample comfort and convenience. In terms of safety, the company is offering the Kona Electric with six airbags, VSM, ESC and hill start assist. Further, features such as tyre pressure monitoring and automatic headlamps also add a touch of convenience and functionality to the cabin. Hyundai has also offered a 10-way power adjusted driver seat and the seats will come with heating & ventilation functions.
The Kona Electric offers a 17.77 cm touchscreen infotainment unit. The system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and also gets voice-enabled control functionality. Hyundai has built in four drive modes to enable an enhanced driver experience. The modes include ECO, ECO+, Sport and Comfort. Other features such as an electric sunroof, pushbutton start/stop, keyless entry, rear AC vents, wireless phone charging and cruise control have also been added to the package. The Hyundai Kona Electric comes with an option of keeping only the driver side AC on, enabling conservation of the battery charge, when the vehicle is only ferrying a single person.
With this new launch, Hyundai has taken a massive leap over competition. The Kona is a well-thought-out product and boasts of exceptional specifications that offers a convenient driving range, and a reasonably quick charging time. The EV has the right amount of power and torque to make it appealing to buyers, who can afford the Rs 25.30 lakh (ex-showroom) price tag. With the right convenience and comfort features, the appeal of a clean energy vehicle and distinct road presence, the Hyundai Kona Electric is sure to surge forward in India.
TEXT: Joshua Luther David
PHOTO: Hyundai Motor India