There’s a sense that we’re at a fairly important crossroads right now, environmentally-speaking. Climate change is becoming harder and harder to ignore, and even if you don’t care about being kind to Mother Nature, the steady economic pressure of fuel price volatility hits us all in the hip pocket whenever Country X decides to rattle sabres against Oil Producing Nation Y.
On the other side of the coin is the utopian vision of an emissions-free future, where cheap electricity is what gets us from A-to-B instead of liquid hydrocarbons. It’s here where the Hyundai Ioniq Electric steps in, as the first mass-market electric car from the Korean automaker and one that’s intended to normalise the electric vehicle (or EV) ownership experience. Whether you're intrigued by EVs as a means of lowering your carbon footprint or merely lowering your vehicle running costs, the Ioniq Electric should pique your interest.
We’ve experienced the Ioniq in small doses so far, but now we’re parking it in our long-term garage to see how it fares during driving that’s a lot closer to what the Average Joe and Josephine would subject it to. Besides the usual do-the-plastics-start-creaking part of long-termer assessment, we want to cast a critical eye over things like the Ioniq’s comparatively limited (230km claimed) range, its charging times and whether the act of having to frequently plug it in starts to do our head in after a few weeks.
Retailing at $48,990, our Ioniq Electric Premium caps off the six-model Ioniq family, which covers regular petrol-electric hybrid variants and a pair of plug-in hybrids, in addition to the two all-electric offerings – the $44,990 Ioniq Electric Elite, and the Ioniq Electric Premium we’ve got on long-term loan. Costly for a non-luxury small car, but that's the price of early adoption.
We’ll be sharing it across the WhichCar team over the next six months, which should be plenty of time to see whether the utopian ideal of all-electric motoring really is compatible with a modern Australian lifestyle. Keep checking back here to see how it’s travelling!
UPDATE 1 - 7 April 2019
So far, so good. The Ioniq has been kept busy shuttling me from home to office, and its been a great tool for what is otherwise the most boring thing you can do behind the wheel: commuting.
In fact, anyone who has to face the drudgery of driving to work and back for five days out of every seven really should be doing so in something electric. The seamless torque of an electric motor, the near-silence of its powertrain and, when you dial up the regenerative braking to full strength, the bulk of the drive can be done by simply modulating the accelerator pedal - you only ever need to prod the brakes when coming to a complete halt.
And besides, why are we burning precious hydrocarbons just to propel ourselves to our jobs? Petrol's a finite resource, and I'd rather save it for driving that's actually fun. In that regard, I'm all on board with the electric revolution. If only it were a little more affordable - near $50K for a non-premium small hatch is a touch steep, methinks, and sadly restricts the likes of the Ioniq Premium to early-adopter types.
At 230km of claimed range I'm currently able to go to and from work for at least three days without recharging - including the occasional after-hours short journey to the shops - so range anxiety hasn't really reared its ugly head just yet. That said, I'm not exactly in the habit of running the battery down into low figures. It's probably also worth mentioning that the car's computer doesn't reckon I'm an efficient enough driver to unlock the full 230km range either, instead telling me that with my current driving style I'll only get around 210-215km from a completely topped-up battery. Let's see if I can convince it otherwise.
I've got some road trips coming up that should test the Ioniq's range claim, but for now just one other feature warrants a mention for this update: the Ioniq Electric's open-plan centre console. Combustion-engined Ioniqs get a conventional set of console plastics, but the EV deletes all that for a space-liberating floor-mounted tray between the footwells, which I can happily confirm is large enough to tote an entire roasted rotisserie chicken (my metric of choice for measuring in-cabin storage), and then some. Handy!
Update 2 – 19 April, 2019
This update will be a quick one, given the poor Ioniq has been neglected of late thanks to a large flow of other cars in the WhichCar carpark. In fact, the only real trip of note I’ve taken in it was to the airport long-term carpark, where it then spent five days parked up while I went overseas for the launch of the updated Jaguar XE and F-Pace SVR.
Unless you have a Tesla, there are no EV charging options at Melbourne Airport’s car parks, either short term or long term. Even if you do own a Tesla, to juice it up while you’re out of town you’ll need to park it at Qantas Valet Parking – the costliest option at an airport that’s already exxy to park at.
But with a full charge and a home-to-airport distance of roughly 40km, the lack of charging infrastructure wasn’t a problem on my visit. The Ioniq’s battery is more than big enough to get me there and back. However, the length of time it would spend sitting idle did get me thinking – would a hydrogen car be problematic on a such a trip?
For those that don’t know, hydrogen cars have a bit of an engineering issue to overcome: the tanks leak. Not by a dangerous, explosion-starting amount, mind you, but with hydrogen molecules able to literally slip between the molecules of most other materials, it’s a difficult gas to contain. The actual rate of hydrogen leakage varies, of course, but as an example Ford was targeting 0.05 grams of hydrogen per hour as an ‘acceptable’ rate of tank permeation.
Which would mean that over five days you’d lose… just six grams of hydrogen to the atmosphere. Six grams in a car that would likely carry around five or six kilograms of hydrogen on board. It’s a negligible amount, so I guess my fear is unfounded.
But here’s the thing: while hydrogen cars are still very much in their infancy with many technological and infrastructural hurdles ahead of them, electric cars have already arrived. Why wait for hydrogen when the future is already here?