Hyundai will lead local carmakers in the zero-emission car race with three vehicles on sale by the end of the year.
A battery-powered version of the Kona small SUV is expected to join the Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle and Ioniq battery-powered passenger car. It will need to be priced under $50,000 to be seriously considered by the public and be competitive against soon-to-arrive rivals such as the second-generation Nissan Leaf.
Hyundai Australia public relations head Bill Thomas this week refused to confirm the Kona has been locked in, only saying the compact SUV is officially “under serious consideration”.
The only potential issue likely to stop Hyundai Australia from getting the popular body style in electric form is the huge popularity of zero-emission vehicles in the rest of the world.
The Ioniq was initially due to launch here early this year but is now due mid-year after strong demand in Europe and Asia. The Toyota Prius rival is sold in pure electric, plug-in hybrid and mild petrol hybrid forms.
It is powered by an 88kW/295Nm motor sourcing voltage from a 28 kWh lithium-ion battery. Hyundai says the range is about 280km, which would make it a capable city commuter.
The electric Kona will be officially launched on February 27 ahead of its first public display at the Geneva Motor Show starting March 6 and there is already a big bank of pre-orders in Europe for the first battery-powered compact SUV.
The Kona will be sold with 39 kWh and 64 kWh batteries. It is unclear which version will be sold in Australia, or whether both will be offered at differing price points. The most potent version is expected to be linked to a 150kW motor and be good for about 350km in real-world driving, or 470km according to the European testing cycle.
Hyundai’s manager of future mobility and government relations, Scott Nargar, says Hyundai has to push the envelope to accelerate local adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
“We’re taking a great risk with Ioniq and Kona when we bring them in, and we’re hoping we don’t have to go through the same harsh learning as Nissan with the Leaf and Mitsubishi with the i-MiEV,” he notes.
Both the Leaf and i-MiEV have proved to be sales flops in Australia.