First adopters could be hurt by rapid tech advancements.
First adopters could be hurt by rapid tech advancements.

Electric car early adopters beware

THE problem with being an early adopter of any new technology is that your state of the art widget, gizmo - or electric vehicle - doesn't stay state-of -the-art for long.

If, for example, you bought a new Ioniq - Hyundai's first EV, launched last August last year - confident that your investment in the electrified future of motoring would pay off, I have bad news.

The 2019 Ioniq, due in the third quarter, has a battery with 36 per cent greater storage capacity, increasing its claimed range from 230km to 294km.

So the 2018 Ioniq EV will have a shelf life of barely 12 months before it's technologically obsolete. That means accelerated depreciation, which will cost owners dearly at trade-in time.

It's a salutary lesson if you're thinking about diving into the brave new world of EVs. They will become much more efficient, and cheaper, in the near future.

Today, you're paying big money for what may become yesterday's technology as soon as tomorrow.


The Kona electric is Hyundai's first battery-powered SUV. Prices start at $58,500 for the Launch Edition. Elite grade is $59,990 and Highlander, which we're testing here, is $64,490.

The 2.0-litre petrol-powered Kona Elite starts at $29,500 and the Highlander is $35,500. So you're paying up to twice the price to go EV.

Kona's 150kW electric motor drives the front wheels. Its 64kWh lithium ion battery provides claimed range of up to 449km.

Hyundai quotes zero to 80 per cent capacity recharge times extending from 54 minutes on a 100kW DC public fast charger to nine hours and 35 minutes when plugged into an optional ($2000, installed) home charger.

Using a 10amp household power point will take up to 28 hours.

Servicing is cheap because an EV has few moving parts and no fluids, apart from battery coolant. The Kona electric costs $165 every 12 months/15,000km (whichever comes first) while the 2.0-litre petrol Kona costs $264-$364 per service.

The battery warranty is eight years/160,000km.

The Kona can get an 80 per cent charge in under an hour via a fast charger.
The Kona can get an 80 per cent charge in under an hour via a fast charger.


Smaller inside than it looks, the Kona has a high SUV seating position and clear outward vision. Informative digital instruments and plenty of handy storage on a split-level centre console make life easy and comfortable for the driver but rear legroom and boot space are tight.

Swathes of hard plastics make the cabin feel more like $25K worth than $60K. Even the leather upholstery feels like vinyl.


You get the works, including adaptive cruise with stop-go in traffic and autonomous emergency braking in forward and reverse.


The petrol Kona won't see which way the EV went. Press the accelerator in Sport mode and the Hyundai immediately surges forward on a muscular, ultra-smooth 395Nm of torque.

Eco mode still gives diesel-like grunt - without the noise, turbo lag or carcinogenic emissions. All you hear in the Kona is a faint whirr from the electric motor.

Regenerative braking helps add extra juice into the battery.
Regenerative braking helps add extra juice into the battery.

Paddles allow you to adjust the level of regenerative braking. Maximum provides strong retardation when you lift your right foot, to the extent that you can almost leave the brake pedal alone. It also puts more charge back into the battery than the minimum setting.

The hydraulic brakes, though powerful, are also extremely abrupt.

Handling is cumbersome - the Nexen tyres lack grip, the steering is lifeless and the suspension doesn't quite control body movement as it should. This also makes for a slightly nautical ride, though comfort and compliance are pretty good.

The cabin doesn’t feel like a $60,000-plus car.
The cabin doesn’t feel like a $60,000-plus car.

Manufacturers' EV range claims are as rubbery as their fuel consumption figures. In contrast to internal combustion vehicles, though, your chances of matching an EV's claimed numbers are better around town than on the open road.

You can achieve 400km-plus of range in city driving, where you're crawling along in traffic, frequently stopped, on the brakes or off the accelerator -- all of which help eke out maximum range, especially in Eco mode.

Open road speeds dramatically increase power consumption because your right foot is nearly always on the go pedal and, unless you're coasting downhill, the battery gets no regenerative charge.

On one highway drive, 243km of range was showing when we set off and our test car travelled 98km. At that distance, the battery's remaining range had fallen to 120km - so, basically, the Kona lost one kilometre of range for every four kilometres it travelled.

The claimed range depends on the type of driving you are doing.
The claimed range depends on the type of driving you are doing.

The trip computer keeps recalculating range as you travel but, as in any EV, if you make the mistake of believing the range you have when you set off is the distance you can drive before it's time to plug in, you may end up stranded.

They don't call it range anxiety for nothing.

Heart says

Climate change is real and we need to act now. I'm going to do something about it.

Head says

I live, work and drive in the city, so 400km-plus is more than enough range for my purposes. I'll buy the optional wall charger so I can juice up the battery overnight at off-peak rates.

Verdict 3/5

If you can afford to drop $65,000 on a symbol of your commitment to the planet, go right ahead. In coming years, you'll be able to do it for a lot less money.


Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV from $45,990

This is a petrol-electric hybrid. Around town, you have up to 55km of range on the battery alone. With the 2.0-litre engine contributing as well, you can drive up to 880km, averaging less than 5L/100km. Best of both worlds.

Nissan Leaf from $49,990

On sale here in August, second-generation Leaf, the world's top-selling EV, has a 40kWh battery that provides up to 270km of claimed range. It's a hatchback but interior space is greater than the Kona.

Hyundai Kona Electric vitals

Price: $64,490 (very expensive)

Warranty/servicing: 5 years (average); $825 for 5 years (cheap)

Engine: electric motor 150kW/395Nm; 64kWh battery; (plenty)

Safety: 5 stars, 6 airbags, AEB, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise, rear cross traffic alert, lane keep assist (excellent)

Range: 449km claimed range (above avg)

Tyres: Repair kit (not good)

Boot: 332L (small)

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