Hyundai this week unveiled its upcoming long-range all-electric crossover at the New York International Auto Show. Since last fall it was known that the battery-powered version of its Kona small SUV would go on sale in late 2018. However, the Korean automaker in New York confirmed that it will carry a 64 kilowatt-hour battery pack capable of traveling about 250 miles on a single charge.
Hyundai did not indicate the Kona EV’s starting price, but the crossover EV is expected to sell for below $40,000—putting it in competition with the 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt and the base-level 220-mile version of the Tesla Model 3.
The Kona EV will initially only be sold in California, with further distribution to follow in the west coast and northeast states that adhere to California’s emissions rules. When an automaker says a vehicle is “coming in the fourth quarter,” it commonly means that the first keys will be handed over to a few customers in December—but legitimate availability will take a couple of more months.
The Kona is an attractive yet sedate crossover EV. It will become the only so-called affordable long-range electric sport utility on the market. The Kona EV will have a slight driving-range advantage over the Bolt and the base-level Model 3 (although the more expensive Model 3 being produced now has a bigger battery pack.) The Kona’s electric motor produces 201 horsepower, which matches the acceleration from the Chevy Bolt.
The EV version of the Kona has the same 19.2 cubic feet of rear cargo room as its gas-powered sibling. Its outward appearance is nearly identical, except for a somewhat odd hash-marked front fascia, which houses the charging inlet. Hyundai says the flush design improves aerodynamics. The narrow, split lighting units on the front fascia add a sleek design element.
Reviewers say the Kona platform offers a spacious front cabin, snug rear seating, and modest interior appointments. On the dash, a floating center-console push-button gear selector replaces the gas version’s conventional shifter.
Like other Hyundai models, the Kona is loaded with high-tech safety features such as forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist. Unlike the gas version of the Kona, the all-electric model is not available with all-wheel-drive.
For the past year, Hyundai has been reporting sales of the Ioniq Electric hatchback, which provides 124 miles of driving on a single charge. However, the company has not yet registered selling more than 79 units in a single month. These anemic numbers raise the question of whether or not Hyundai will produce the Kona EV in sufficient quantities. Rumors suggest that annual production—at a global level—will be fewer than 30,000 units, indicating that availability will remain tight. “We’re still assessing volume,” Brian Smith, chief operating officer for Hyundai Motor America, told Ward’s Auto. “We’ll start small,” he said.
Adding the 250-mile Kona to the Hyundai showroom also casts some doubt on the long-term appeal of the smaller and lower-range 124-mile Ioniq Electric. Yet the plug-in hybrid version of the Ioniq could remain a viable choice, although it competes with the more compelling Kia Niro Plug-in Hybrid.
Despite the potentially low volume and a slow rollout, the introduction of the market’s third affordable 200-plus mile EV, especially in the form of a crossover SUV, is great news for electric-vehicle shoppers—and a sign of things to come.