Electric Vehicles (EVs) are revolutionising global mobility and Hyundai has just launched a real EV called the Kona that is much more than just a souped up golf cart. Last year, 5.6 million EVs were sold globally, of which half were sold in China. But unlike India, Chinese buyers pay Zero taxes on EVs and progressively higher taxes on conventional cars based on their size.
So far, Hyundai has delivered 130 Kona SUV’s in India and have a long waiting list of pending orders. EVs are becoming very important in USA, Europe, Japan and other countries and every auto major in cars, bikes and other vehicles is investing heavily to introduce them. Many people, however, have reservations about this new technology.
At first glance, the Kona looks a bit like a Hyundai Creta SUV but you will be surprised to discover that its small electric motor has a huge torque of 40.27 kgm that delivers roughly as much power to the wheels as a big 2800 cc Toyota Fortuna at full throttle because the power of an electric motor is the same at all speeds. This means that the Kona is capable of furious acceleration from standstill to 100 kmph in just 9.7 seconds.
As the motor makes very little sound, the Kona is provided with an engine sound generator to warn other road users.
Electric cars used to have a problem with range but the Kona can go a huge distance of about 450 km on a full charge. It may need 19 hours for a full charge from a normal domestic electric point but there are much faster options.
An AC (alternating current) device will give a full charge in 6 hours but a portable DC quick charge device (provided with the car) can provide an 80% charge in just 57 minutes. Best of all, the electric consumption for a full charge will be just 39 units of electricity that would roughly cost just 20% the price of equivalent power from a diesel engine. A full charge will, therefore, take you from Jaipur to Agra via Delhi at a cost of just a few hundred rupees.
Buyers who are concerned about the life of the lithium-ion battery pack can be reassured that battery technology has improved so much that Hyundai is offering a huge 8-year warranty with unlimited mileage in addition to the 3-year warranty on the complete car.
As there is no engine, gearbox or cooling system there is also very little service needed during its lifetime. The cost of the battery pack is, however, very high but these costs are steadily coming down. There is presently only one premium model with leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, R17 alloy wheels and sporty roof rails.
The purchase price is twice that of Creta but the Kona offers much more than Creta. Apart from the cost economics, low service costs and reliability, the Kona is a good looking SUV with LED headlights, excellent interiors including ventilated or heated front seats and an array of electronic gadgets for communications, navigation, entertainment and comfort.
The Kona offers ABS with ESC (electronic stability control) and VSM (vehicle stability management) to make driving safe in all road conditions.
It will always need a little time before buyers become confident about any new technology but Hyundai has already sold over 300,000 electric cars worldwide and knows that what happens elsewhere in the world will also happen in India. Ten years from now most new cars (and bikes) will be electric and we will forget that we were once scared.
Murad Ali Baig
Senior automobile analyst