Kona EV, hydrogen interest Hyundai NZ

The immediate national interest sparked by the Ioniq EV could be further fuelled by an electric crossover and, perhaps, a hydrogen car.


POTENTIAL that the next car to plug into Hyundai’s local electric vehicle initiative will be a version of the impending Kona crossover has been raised by the brand’s distributor – which is also talking about dabbling with a hydrogen vehicle.

Discussion about the EV expansion, the potential for the Kona EV coming next year – around 12 months after the orthodox versions land - and the Auckland operator’s interest in taking a look at a hydrogen-fuelled car that South Korea plans to reveal globally next year arose as it also explained the swift penetration by its first non-fossil fuelled model, the Ioniq.

The line that launched in February in full electric and hybrid formats – with a plug-in electric to follow, though not for a couple more months - is off to a strong start, with 60 registrations claimed.

A breakdown of that tally shows the full EV models, here in entry and higher-end Elite form and capable of around 200kms’ mixed speed running on a single charge, is riding high on national electric car interest that continues to increase.

Even though the total count of EVs on our roads is still small – around 3800 new and pre-owned import vehicles -  last month was nonetheless the best ever for registrations, with just under 280 additions.

Sinclair could not say how many of the June cars were Ioniqs, but said the cheapest full electric new model in the country is hitting target, is outselling the alternate hybrid four to one and has now become subject to a waiting list.

Hyundai New Zealand boss Andy Sinclair has disclosed the Government is making good on its promise to progressively insert electric options into its departmental staff fleets.

Several Government departments are foremost among fleet operators buying into the $59,990 entry edition, though so far a bulk order has yet to come about.

“I cannot talk about the departments because I don’t have their authority to do so … but our sales are growing every month and every EV we have brought into the country has been sold.

“The entry car is proving most popular. It has an extensive specification for an entry model and is well priced, sitting under the $60,000 bracket and it is the one that really appeals to fleets.”

Ioniq global demand is also exceeding supply, but Sinclair remains confident he can still get cars, though he suggests anyone who placed an order for an Elite today might not expect delivery for another two months.

“Sales will continue to grow. I think we will see continuing momentum with Ioniq EV.”

The alternate $65k Elite is also winning interest, but almost wholly from private buyers.

Asked if he expected the Ioniq’s ongoing penetration to rest on continuing fleet interest, Sinclair said: “Certainly with the entry model.”

“They’ve so far been buying the car in small counts – perhaps three to four – but that doesn’t surprise me. With any new technology fleets are naturally cautious, so they will initially buy a small volume to see how it goes and how it fits with their operations and their drivers.”

He said the car was also on sale at a time when the national recharging infrastructure was improving but had yet to be completed.

“They will also in some cases be waiting for infrastructure to be put in place, to be made as good as it can be.”

However, the initial success showed that Ioniq could be seen as the achievable EV everyone keen on eschewing a fossil-fuelled future has been calling for. The next cheapest options were up to $15k dearer.

“It’s not just the one with the best price point alone but is also the one with the best specification.”

As for whether the Hyundai badge also suited Government use, he said. “Certainly there seems to be some pushback from a department running a car with a European badge … if that is of advantage to us then that’s fine.”

During the recent global launch of Kona in South Korea, Hyundai high-ups suggested that their new compact crossover – a rival for the Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and Ford’s outdated EcoSport – will eventually adopt an EV format.

Sinclair said he did not know much about that, but suggested he would be keen to evaluate the car. Expected to land in October-November, Kona is seen as a vital addition to a Hyundai representation that already spans 20 models.

“It is a key car. It fills a gap in our lineup, allows us to get into an area in which we are not represented and in which there is significant potential. We’re excited.”

Meantime, he also said the parent brand’s emergent programme to sell EVs running with hydrogen fuel cells is also of interest. He hoped that one day a trial car could be presented onto New Zealand roads and suggested the technology existed to create a simple refuelling station to feed it.

Hyundai New Zealand’s idea would be to create hydrogen by installing a small plant that used solar power and rain water off the head office’s roof – it already has a 33,000 litre tank in place at the Mt Wellington facility. This is presently used as a supplementary to mains supply.

It is envisaged that this volume would be enough to create enough hydrogen daily to run a single car. There are further challenges, one being with gas storage. It is held under extreme pressure and well below freezing.

Hyundai is not new to this game. It has been trialling a version of the iX35 crossover, which has now been superceded by the Tucson, in various parts of the world. The closest at present operates in Sydney.

In 2014 the iX35 Fuel Cell drove a record distance for a hydrogen-powered production car on a single tank, covering 700 kilometres across three countries, with the driver using extreme eco-driving techniques. The stated range in normal operating speeds is cited as 594km.