Originally published on Gas2
Hyundai took center stage in green car news this week when its Ioniq Hybrid was confirmed by the EPA to have the highest fuel economy of any hybrid — 58 mpg combined. Move over, Toyota Prius Eco. There’s a new sheriff in town. Impressive, right?
Yes, it certainly is, but Hyundai has other things in mind for the Ioniq. In addition to a plug-in hybrid version coming next year, an all electric version will debut in 2017 as well. That car will offer many features not available from other electric car brands. Let’s start with the big news. Hyundai will offer a full lifetime guarantee on the battery in its electric car and in the plug-in hybrid. That should go a long way toward reassuring customers who worry about an expensive battery replacement in their future.
While it’s true that there are almost no news reports about battery replacements being a regular thing, people still think, “What if…..?” Those jitters were fueled in part by issues Nissan had with some of the batteries in early LEAFs, especially those in hot climates like Arizona. Even though Nissan stepped up to upgrade the battery and covered any needed replacements, it still left a doubt in peoples’ minds that lingers today.
I purchased a Toyota Prius in October, 2006. I had already made up my mind I would trade it in before the battery warranty ran out at 100,000 miles before I left the showroom and I did. The thought of spending thousands to replace the battery after the odometer turned into 6 digit territory made me very uncomfortable. This is very smart marketing by Hyundai. It totally takes one factor keeping people from buying an electric car completely out of the equation.
The other factor is price. As good as some of today’s electric and plug-in hybrid cars are, they are expensive compared to the garden variety Corollas and Civics that mainstream buyers can afford. The Ioniq Electric will have a relatively short 124 mile range. That is far more than 95% of drivers need on a daily basis but far less than offered by most of the competition. Will that stop people from buying one? It’s all about the price, isn’t it? With half the battery size of the Bolt and Tesla Model 3, the Ioniq Electric should sell for thousands less.
The Ioniq Electric can recharge in about four hours and 25 minutes. That’s faster than the six hours needed for the LEAF but slightly longer than the four hour charge time for the E-Golf. In quick charge mode, the Ioniq can get to an 80% state of charge in 23 minutes. That may give it a big advantage over the Chevy Bolt, which will not offer fast charging capability, at least not initially.
The Ioniq Electric is part of a broader effort by Hyundai to reach younger consumers who expect electrification to be baked into their cars. Millennials will account for 40% of new car purchases by 2020 and Hyundai believes they are more likely to consider alternative fuel vehicles than older shoppers.
Though stricter CAFE rules could change under President-elect Donald Trump, Hyundai thinks electrification will be part of a permanent shift in consumer preferences. Plug-ins and electrics are better suited to urban areas than traditional gasoline or diesel engines and Millennials have demonstrated a preference to live in cities. “There’s a significant group of owners that still prioritize fuel economy,” said Mike O’Brien, Hyundai’s vice president of product, corporate, and digital planning.
Hyundai may be working a version of the Ioniq Electric with greater range for more money. Tesla has been quite successful offering its customers options when it comes to range and pricing. No doubt, Hyundai has been watching and learning from the upstart Silicon Valley automaker.
Photo credit: Hyundai
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