Hyundai is not beating around the bush: Ioniq is the first production vehicle that will hit the market in three variations, all sans classic propulsion: hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric.
In 2016, such a move is hard to understand, considering millions of hybrids that have been sold by Toyota, along with all of the plug-in hybrid and the electric vehicles.
One of the reasons behind this has to do with the hibernating car industry which, if we're being fair, only just entered the field of e-mobility. The result has been a nice selection of expensive plug-in hybrids and electric cars on the one hand, and Toyota's rather inexpensive hybrids on the other, with almost nothing in between. Production of affordable plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles is dependent not only on low-cost batteries (and moderation, in terms of range), but also on a platform that allows the production of different versions at not too high a price. That means that instead of adapting the classic platform to new technologies, a new platform must be devised to conform to the specifications of these new models.
The fact that the very first such platforms comes from the Korean car industry is not surprising. Kia has long been a presence on the electric vehicle market, and in partnership with Hyundai (which owns about one-third of Kia Motors), they're among the biggest car manufacturers worldwide, and may very well outrun their rivals by use of new technologies (which is exactly the reason behind the production of the hydrogen-powered ix35 fuel cell). Hyundai car manufacturer is thus embarking on a mission to produce a wide collection of emission-free vehicles, which would ideally make the streets in the form of 20 models, split between Hyundai and Kia, by the end of this decade.
That explains why Ioniq is sharing its platform with Kia Niro. While Ioniq is a classic five-door car, Niro looks more like a crossover, which may be an advantage, given that crossovers continue to grow in popularity. But let's focus on Ioniq for a moment, since Niro came out only as a hybrid (its plug-in hybrid version is to be released at a later date, while the future of its electric version is still uncertain, at least while Soul EV is still on sale). Ioniq is arriving on the market in a hybrid and electric version. Because hybrid was reviewed in the previous issue of Plugin Magazine, we will now examine the workings of the electric Ioniq.
Aesthetically, it is easily distinguishable from its two gas-engine featuring brothers, at least from the front: instead of a classic slatted grille, it's got a grey nosecone and a narrow opening along the bottom of the bumper. Same goes for its rear. Its entire silhouette is a light reminder of the Chevrolet Volt, which doesn't come as a surprise, if we bear in mind the demands for optimal aerodynamics (Ioniq prides itself on an impressive 0.24 Cd) and battery placement. But under the bodywork things are expectedly different. The most prominent difference between the two brothers, drivetrain aside, hides in a torsion-beam rear axle featured by the electric Ioniq. The rationale is related to the battery. Because a torsion-beam axle takes up less space, Hyundai engineers chose to sacrifice the multilink axle found in the hybrid Ioniq to save trunk space which is, measuring at 300 l, smaller than in its hybrid counterpart, yet still of sufficient capacity. The difference from behind the wheel can only be noticed on a windy stretch of road, when the driver throws the car into the curves. Beyond that, negative effects coming from the use of a torsion-beam axle will go largely unnoticed.
Far more conspicuous is its electric propulsion. With 120 hp on paper, and in the face of 1420 kg in weight, the acceleration is sprightly, especially from a standstill, of course: its synchronous electric motor is capable of 295 Nm torque. With a single-speed transmission, all that is sufficient for a 9.9 second acceleration time to a 100 km/h, and a highway-acceptable top speed of 165 km/h. The li-ion battery has a capacity of 28 kWh which is good for an electric car that will cost just short of 29,000 pounds in the UK. Hyundai chose to work with pouch cells (subsequently the battery was labeled as lithium-polymer, even though this term is used for batteries of different composition, wherein the electrolytes are in a solid and not fluid state), which are a rarity in the world of electric vehicles (used also by Kia Soul EV and Bollore Bluecar). The result is a lighter battery, when compared to cylindrical or prismatic cell batteries, which is why the electric Ioniq is only 50 kilograms heavier than the hybrid version (with the battery weighing in at 265 kg). Hyundai is confident enough about their battery technology to back it up with an eight-year warranty (or up to 200,000 km) or a classic five-year warranty with unlimited kilometers.
The battery in Ioniq can be restored rather quickly, owing to the CCS connector for fast charging. which means that an infrastructure of fast charging stations with 50 kW capacity is already in place, allowing the Ioniq to recharge 80% of its battery in half an hour.
Of course, the battery can also be refilled via regular charging sites or home outlets at a 6.6 kW capacity maximum, with a turnover of about four and a half to nearly nine hours. Alas, Hyundai didn't go with a minimally 11 kW built-in charger, as that would have come at a price. According to the outdated NEDC standard, Ioniq has a range of 280 kilometers, though in practice (and also according to the American and Korean reality-mimicking standards), it will cover 170 to 180 km, maybe 200, given you're a moderate driver. Enough? For that price, yes, although some of its rivals are already getting batteries with a realistic range of 250 km.
The interior of the electric Ioniq is refreshingly classic, compared to the spaceship-like interior frequently featured in eco-friendly vehicles. Ioniq boasts every modern technology avaialble, from Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support and a wide variety of safety systems (Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist System, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and active cruise control with a stop/start function) to wireless smartphone charging. Measuring in at 4.5 meters in length, the car offers plenty of space, even for luggage (often a soft spot for electric vehicles). It's somewhat noisy, but the choice of materials and its overall execution are price-appropriate.
The gauges are fully digital, the extent of regenerative braking during deceleration can be regulated manually with the steering wheel paddles or set to default. It's a shame, however, that the digital speedometer is deployed only in sport mode. With their electric Ioniq, Hyundai demonstrates that e-mobility is close to being available to almost anyone--that is, if they're able to produce enough cars. Which is exactly where many manufacturers (including its sister brand Kia, with their Soul EV) get stuck