Hyundai going big with Ioniq

Hyundai's three-pronged Ioniq sales assault is set to spark up the EV and hybrid markets.


GOVERNMENT expectation of 64,000 electric vehicles being on the road by 2021 means type sales will have to double every interim year.

So, 2000 battery-prioritised models being sold this year, 4000 the next and so on.

While that target is a stretch, Hyundai New Zealand is not dismissing the potential of it being achieved – and it holds high hope the first electric car it is selling here can be a major driver.

Actually, makes that cars. An appeal of the Ioniq, a five-door five-seater hatchback, is that it is world’s first car to be offered with three battery-involved powertrain options, all of which are coming here.

Hyundai New Zealand is coy to speak about its specific sales expectations but comment from brand spokesmen at the car’s media unveiled in Queenstown today left no doubt that it is thinking big.

Seoul head office is also wrapped up in the excitement about the potential in a country whose Green status is extra high through almost all electricity being generated by natural means. It has assured the national distributor that NZ is a high priority market. Supply will not be a problem, it vows.

That's a new one. Hyundai in the past has seen sales ambitions for high-flying models quashed by production shortages, but when asked how many Ioniqs were available to NZ, Hyundai NZ sales and marketing manager Scott Billman suggested the sky is the limit.

“We can have as many as we need, as we want. How many can we sell? It’s an unknown … but the indications are there will not be any handbrake on supply.”

That’s a major plus point with the Government now fully up to speed with its campaign to lift EVs out of a niche and into the mainstream.

Hyundai NZ wants to be at the forefront – and it knows that, with Ioniq here now, it is well-placed to get a good start. Other mainstream brands with EV ideals, including Volkswagen, are still awaiting their cars.

More pointedly, this is a place where industry leader Toyota New Zealand has no power. It does not have an EV at all. Toyota New Zealand's only battery-first car is a used import Prius PHEV. Intent to get that into local and national Government use appears thwarted by it lacking a vital credential: A recognised crash test result.

Government, especially, is adamant that it will only consider a five-star Euro or Australasian NCAP result for its fleet models. Regular Prius hybrids have NCAP scores but the PHEV, because it never sold outside of Japan, did not undergo that international test.

Different story for Ioniq. The pure electric edition has received five stars from Euro NCAP. Hyundai NZ is working with ANCAP in the hope that this NZ-funded Melbourne operation will also provide the same result (Normally Hyundai Australia woud undertake this duty but our neighbour has determined not to take the EV edition).

The full battery car, which has clocked around 200-220kms’ real world running in local tests, and a plug-in petrol electric (PHEV) version (with 120kms’ pure electric urge) arriving later this year will drive the EV campaign here.

A mild hybrid version which shares the PHEV’s 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine and electric assist is also being offered. Yet that car, despite able to also drive faster, up to 60kmh, and further on solely electrical impetus – the cited 11kms’ range being almost three times as far as its Toyota Prius and Camry rivals can manage - is not considered electric enough to warrant being identified as an EV by the Government. Toyota hybrids are also cold-shouldered.

All the same, Ioniq hybrid will likely become the best-selling edition because it is the cheapest car and has technology that private buyers might prefer as an interim step to undertaking immersion into electric driving.

Nonetheless, Hyundai New Zealand intends that its battery-prioritised editions also make strong showings – while the hybrid will be sold by all Hyundai dealers, the dedicated electrics were expected to be only of interest to a handful of outlets with the wherewithal to have dedicated service areas and specially-trained technicians.

But so far, 17 of the country’s 23 dealers have shown interest in selling these models. They’ll have their first exposure to the car tomorrow.

The obvious appeal is price. At $65,990, even the top Elite re-sets the cost of electric motoring.

Its tag is around $20,000 less than the only other pure EV cars on the market, the Renault Zoe and BMW i3 – which are both smaller, more city-centric and seat four occupants, one fewer than the Ioniq.

If the Elite seems too rich, there’s a base model for $59,990 – the same price as the country’s top-selling PHEV, the Mitsubishi Outlander.

The hybrid, meantime, will also come in the same specification formats, at $46,990 and $52,990.

Billman says it is too soon to say what the PHEV will cost, but admits suggestion that it will have to squeeze between those two extreme alternates seems logical.

“We will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Hyundai’s Elite specification has luxury touches of leather, a high-end infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air con, front and rear heated seats, a heated steering wheel, plus a full suite of active and passive safety features – including the latest crash test authority-recommended preference, automated emergency braking.

It misses out on factory sat nav because the mapping requires information such as the location of charging stations, which has not yet been provisioned nationally. However, the CarPlay/Android mapping interface works on the car.

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.

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 drivetrain tech is also leading edge. The PHEV combines a 45kW electric motor feeding from an 8.9kWh battery and a 78kW 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. Instead of a continuously variable transmission like the Prius, it has a dual-clutch transmission with Sport and Eco modes.

The standard hybrid Ioniq gets the same 1.6-litre petrol engine but running in tandem with a less powerful 24kW electric motor and smaller 1.56kWh battery. It too gets the dual-clutch transmission.

The all-electric version has a 28kWh battery and 88kW electric motor. The battery will have a 10 year warranty here.

Where Ioniq goes, others will follow. Today's presentation also outlined brand plans to launch no fewer than 26 green-vehicle powertrain variations for Hyundai's new models around the world within four years.

Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, all-electric, hydrogen fuel-cell and bio-ethanol powertrains are covered, with several variations of most of these to cater for different types and sizes of vehicles in different markets.