Hyundai NZ: Ioniq attack a three-phase power plug

All versions of Hyundai’s ground breaking battery-involved eco-friendly hatchback might be sold in New Zealand.

HYBRID, plug-in hybrid and full electric – you get to chose, with Hyundai New Zealand’s boss confirming his hope is to have all three editions of the ground-breaking Ioniq hatchback on sale here.

“There are three variants and our intention, at this stage, is to take each one,” Andy Sinclair has confirmed in exclusive comment to Motoring Network about his intentions for an eco-friendly compact hatchback that is unlike anything else in the world.

“It (the sales plan) is also still dependant on us getting the correct specification, but we want to have all three if at all possible.”

Sinclair says the release will be staggered, with the hybrid version arriving first – at some time, yet to be defined, before the end of this year – followed, in 2017, by the full electric model and, finally, a plug-in hybrid.

All will sell side-by-side in Hyundai dealerships. As to which he believes will achieve most success? Past trends suggest the hybrid will be the volume seller, buyt Sinclair believes it is too early to speculate. He ventures that tastes are changing so quickly that even the most technically advanced – the full electric – might win the day, even though potentially it might be the most expensive choice.

Says Sinclair: “It’s too early to speculate. But clearly full electric is gaining momentum in New Zealand at the moment. As I see it now, it would be electric … but you can never quite judge it. Sometimes a car has a something that just attracts customers to it.”

At the same token, he sees the pure hybrid technology that has been well established by Toyota and Lexus as having ongoing appeal.

“I think there is a still a segment there. New Zealand has a lot of hybrid buyers. Some of them might not want to go to full electric. I think if we can get the spec right for NZ and all three models definitely become available for us, then we can allow the consumer to chose.”

Hyundai is the world’s only car maker to conceive a single car in fully electric, range-extender and hybrid formats.

Delivering all three versions here seems a brave move when just 0.01 percent of the national fleet, slightly more than 1000 cars, are electrically-motivated models, while hybrids achieve just less than two percent of the share.

However, the plug-in hybrid sector alone is set to become a busy place, with a number of brands poised to introduce new models – six alone from BMW and almost as many again from Mercedes Benz. Toyota New Zealand is also dallying with the Prius Prime, a rechargeable version of the latest Prius hatch.

While the Government’s recent announcement of intention to push full electric cars more forcefully could be seen as somewhat empty-handed – given the key implementation sought by distributors, a rebate on purchase, is still not being offered – those models are also rising in public profile and status.

Meantime, offering a hybrid Ioniq also makes sense because that technology is now well accepted.

There’s another reason for a three-type push: It reminds that Hyundai is a true technology giant, on equal standing with the best electro-dabbling brands in Japan, America and Europe.

The hybrid version is already in production and overseas’ reports suggest Hyundai will start serving its priority right-hand market, the United Kingdom, within a few months.

HNZ, however, has elected to share a common specification with Australia, so the requirements for the car to meet the peculiarities of Australian Design Rules might ensure our markets are not served until toward the end of the year.

Hyundai has previously indicated will cost around the same as the Sonata sedan that sells here for between $45,990 and $55,990, however Sinclair says there’s no firm pricing yet.

As for where the cars need to place in the market? There are set barometers, he says. “We have no pricing but it needs to be in a range that people find acceptable to pay to enjoy that technology.”

The hybrid and plug-in rechargeable version employ a 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine that operates with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and associates with a lithium ion battery pack but with capability of covering 120km on pure electric urge.

The technology spread means each Ioniq will have different rivals: the hybrid, obviously, is a competitor for the orthodox Toyota Prius in full-sized hatch and smaller Prius C formats.

In addition to rivalling Prius Prime, the plug-in might also face off against the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the range-extender BMW i3.

The fully electric Ioniq, meantime, is set to shape up against other ohm team players like the $75,000 Renault Zoe, the BMW i3 in battery-pure BEV format and perhaps Telsa’s Model 3 when, or if, it shows.

Ioniq’s petrol engine creates 77kW power and 147Nm on its own. Its power is combined with a 32kW/167Nm permanent magnet electric motor which draws power from lithium-ion battery for a combined output of 109kW and 314Nm.

Thanks to an ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle it manages a thermal efficiency of 40 percent – the world's most efficient according to Hyundai, though Toyota claims the same for its latest Prius, which also use Atkinson cycle.

The engine was specially developed for hybrid applications and has specialist design features such as a 1:35 stroke-bore ratio and a separated cooling for the cylinder head and block.

Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, which has been “optimised” for its hybrid application, resulting in a transmission efficiency of 95.7 percent.

The Ioniq's structure is also advanced, with part-aluminium construction which comprises the bonnet, bootlid, front cross member as well as some front and rear suspension components. Where heavier steel had to be used, higher-strength grades were used to maintain stiffness and impact protection without adding unnecessary weight.

The interior fit-out uses components that rely less on petrochemicals, opting for recycled plastics, wood fibre and even pumice stone and soy bean oil based paints instead. The more environmentally friendly materials are not only more sustainable but are also 20 per cent lighter and provide more effective sound insulation.

Locating the EV drivetrain battery low down in the chassis has resulted in a lower centre of gravity for improved handling and road-holding in corners.

Hyundai has not released specific fuel economy figures but says a closed wheel design with “curtains” on the front wheels, active air flap ducts, low-drag diffuser and smooth underside all contribute to “the world's best hybrid fuel efficiency.”

Inside the Ioniq has dual-zone air-conditioning that can be switched to an efficiency mode for better fuel economy, or a driver-only mode for when only one person is aboard.

The drivers instrument cluster is a 7.0-inch digital display which shows different information and in a different colour theme depending on the selected driver mode.

A second dash-mounted screen allows passengers to access the various entertainment systems through the touchscreen, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android smartphone connectivity as well as wireless device charging.

Hyundai's Eco-Das navigation further increases fuel efficiency by changing the way the car delivers power or charges the lithium-ion battery according to the driving route. The system encourages more efficient driving style as well as managing power depending on the traffic and environmental conditions.

Blind-spot monitoring, lane-change assistance, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control and tyre pressure monitoring will all be available, as well as seven airbags as standard if a collision is unavoidable.

The Ioniq has a 750 litres of luggage space with the second-row seats folded, and will be available in nine paint colours with a choice of three interior colour schemes.