Last year, when Nissan announced a new, larger-capacity 30 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack for the 2016 Nissan LEAF SV and 2016 Nissan LEAF SL, the popular family-friendly hatchback became the longest-range electric car you could buy which wasn’t a Tesla Model S. At an EPA-approved range of 107 miles per charge, the larger 30 kWh battery pack of the new 2016 Nissan LEAF SV and SL pushed the LEAF’s real-world range over 100 miles for the first time, and made it car to beat in the affordable mid-sized electric car segment.
Since Nissan’s surprise announcement, other automakers have followed its lead, promising an incremental battery capacity update to their own electric cars. Like the Nissan LEAF’s battery capacity upgrade, promised upcoming range upgrades to cars like the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf aren’t ground-up redesigns or next-gen vehicles: they’re simply a way to ensure that cars remain competitive until a next-generation model is released. A stop-gap measure, if you will, to ensure current-generation electric cars don’t lose out to newer, more capable models.
Those next-generation models are already on their way, and they are expected to provide a leap in range and practicality for new electric car owners. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV for example, is expected to offer an official EPA range in excess of 200 miles per charge when it goes on sale in Q4 this year, with a price tag of around $35,000 after incentives. The long-awaited $35,000 pre-incentive Tesla Model 3 electric car — due to be officially be unveiled next week — is expected to offer 200+ miles of range and Tesla Supercharger quick charge capabilities when it launches some time before the end of 2018.
Armed with that information, you’d expect the brand-new, 100 percent electric variant of Hyundai’s 2017 IONIQ — the 2017 IONIQ EV — to offer a range closer to that of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt or Tesla Model 3 in order to remain competitive throughout its expected 6-year model lifespan. But, as AutomotiveNews (subscription required) details, Hyundai is expecting the 2017 IONIQ EV to receive an official EPA range of just 110 miles per charge ahead of its U.S. introduction later this year.
Talking with the industry publication, Kim Choong, one of Hyundai’s lead engineers on the IONIQ, detailed some of the differences between the Hyundai IONIQ EV and its siblings, the Hyundai IONIQ Plug-in Hybrid and Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid. While the Hyundai IONIQ was designed from the ground up to offer all three different drivetrain choices with as similar a driving experience as possible, the Hyundai IONIQ EV has some extra features that you won’t find on its siblings.
These include the absence of a front grille. Since the all-electric drivetrain doesn’t need the cooling radiator necessary to keep an inefficient internal combustion engine cool, there’s no grille on the Hyundai IONIQ EV. In its place, there’s a solid, beveled ‘shield” that improves aerodynamic performance and thus overall efficiency.
Then there’s the presence of paddle-shifters. Like the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt EV, the paddle shifters are designed to allow the driver to adjust the amount of regenerative braking on accelerator liftoff, allowing for the driver to choose one of four settings between free-wheeling (no regeneration) to a heavy simulated engine braking mode (full regeneration).
Other differentiations include the absence of a traditional automatic-style gear shifter in favor of a special button-shifter mechanism, and the inclusion of a terrain-aware, route-planning preference in the car’s navigation system allowing users to pick the most efficient route.
With the same 28 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack as the current generation Kia Soul EV, the 2017 Hyundai IONIQ’s 110-mile expected range may put it at the top of the affordable electric car chart when it comes to range per charge. CCS quick charging capabilities as standard should also help owners make long-distance trips without too much hassle in markets where CCS quick charging stations have already been installed.
Naturally, we’ll let you know when the EPA officially confirms official ratings for the Hyundai IONIQ EV’s range, but in the meantime we can’t help wonder if Hyundai has shot itself in the foot by launching a brand-new car with a range which will shortly be completely overshadowed by the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
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