It’s about a 225-mile drive around the Big Island of Hawaii on the main highway. Most of today’s fully electric cars simply can’t pack enough juice to do the entire loop—starting and ending in the Kona District, for instance.
The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric should be able to do that with ease, based on the details Hyundai revealed for the U.S.-spec model at the New York auto show. Its 64.0-kWh battery pack is larger than that of any other non-Tesla EV currently on sale (a smaller pack available in other markets isn’t coming to the States).
Hyundai anticipates an EPA-estimated driving range of 250 miles, which is greater than the 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt EV as well as the 151-mile rated range for the new 40.0-kWh Nissan Leaf. It’s also more than the 220 miles expected for the upcoming standard-range version of the Tesla Model 3 sedan. Hyundai expects a 117-MPGe EPA combined stamp, better than the Leaf’s 112 MPGe and nearly as good as the Bolt EV’s 119 MPGe.
With 201 horsepower and 290 lb-ft of peak torque, the Kona should be quick among the sub-Tesla EV set, with the company claiming the sprint to 62 mph takes 7.6 seconds. Top speed is governed to 104 mph. The Kona’s permanent-magnet motor drives the front wheels through a fixed 7.98:1 ratio. While all-wheel drive is offered throughout the gasoline Kona lineup, the Electric is front-drive only. Many of the other chassis fundamentals carry over, with struts in front—plus a hollow anti-roll bar—and a multilink setup in the rear. Hyundai has retuned the electrically assisted power steering to suit what we’ll assume is punchier low-speed performance for the Electric.
One surprise strength for the Kona Electric is charging. As with the current Hyundai Ioniq Electric, the Kona EV will be able to take advantage of speedier 100-kW Combined Charging System (CCS) DC hardware. Using such a connection, Hyundai says, will restore a depleted battery pack to an 80-percent state of charge in about 54 minutes (or 75 minutes on more common 50-kW hardware). With Level 2 (240-volt AC) charging that you might install in your garage (or be more likely to encounter in a shopping-center parking lot) and the 7.2-kW onboard charger, the Kona Electric requires nearly 10 hours to top off the pack. The charge port is located on the front of the vehicle.
At just 164.6 inches long and 70.9 inches wide, the Kona Electric is roughly the size of the Jeep Renegade, the Honda HR-V, and the Mazda CX-3, and it’s a few inches shorter than the Kia Niro. From the front, the closed grille is what most distinguishes the Electric from the rest of the small crossover’s lineup. Just as with other Konas, the Electric is being offered in a palette of extroverted colors, and a contrasting black, gray, or white roof is available for models without the sunroof.
Don’t expect interior packaging to be compromised in any significant way—maybe just some different footwells in back, or different seat folding—because Hyundai says the Kona’s platform was designed to integrate the large battery pack. The front seats have three-step heating, and there’s an available heated steering wheel. There’s a choice between cloth or full leather upholstery in multiple colors, and at least in overseas versions, a combination of those materials is available. The Kona Electric may feel a little more open in front than the standard Kona because the normal shift knob has been replaced with shift-by-wire controls on a redesigned center console.
The list of available features includes adaptive cruise control (with full stop-and-go capability), lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and cross-traffic warning systems, and a driver-attention warning system. Hyundai notes that forward collision monitoring with automated emergency braking is standard. The Kona Electric’s 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and offers HD and satellite radio as well as BlueLink data connectivity. A step-up system with an 8.0-inch screen adds navigation, traffic data, an eight-speaker Infinity audio system, and the next-generation BlueLink suite of features, which in this case includes some EV-exclusive helpers such as app-based remote charge management and charge scheduling. Other available features include a flip-up head-up display and wireless inductive charging for personal electronics.
As Hyundai readies a whole family of plug-in hybrid and electric models, expect the brand to branch out and embrace plugging in with some new ownership models. Hyundai’s only other all-electric vehicle so far, the Ioniq Electric, is available via traditional purchasing or, in California, through a subscription pricing model that includes all fees, maintenance, and registration charges as well as charging costs.
The Kona Electric will start reaching dealerships in California by the end of the year, and Hyundai plans to make it available somewhat later in the other states that adopt California’s ZEV mandate. Hawaii isn’t one of those, but the Kona Electric looks like it would fit right in.