When Hyundai announced its intent to bring the all-electric IONIQ to market with a range of just 110-miles per charge, we were a little more than disappointed, postulating that the car’s expected 110-mile EPA range would be no match for the upcoming 238-mile per charge 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV and 220+ mile Tesla Model 3 electric sedan.
While 110-miles of range per charge places the Hyundai IONIQ EV on par with the 2017 Nissan LEAF — a car which is now starting to look extremely long in the tooth as it is essentially the same car Nissan launched back in 2010 — Hyundai has already admitted that launching a brand-new car with just 110 miles of range isn’t enough to secure it any meaningful place in the electric car marketplace long-term. Indeed, back in May, Byung Ki Ahn, Hyundai’s director of eco-vehicle performance, promised that Hyundai had plans to launch a new electric car in 2018 with a range of 200 miles per charge, followed by an electric car in 2020 with a range of 250 miles per charge.
At the time, Byung Ki Ahn didn’t detail specifics, but in an interview this week with Automotive News (Subscription required) the South Korean executive disclosed that the 2018 electric car alluded to earlier this year is in fact a 200-mile variant of the recently-launched IONIQ EV rather than a brand-new model. While it’s not clear if it would be sold alongside a shorter-range Hyundai IONIQ EV, the 200-mile Hyundai IONIQ EV would certainly make the IONIQ EV a cross-shop against the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Tesla Model 3 and upcoming next-generation Nissan LEAF.
But by promising a longer-range version of the Hyundai IONIQ EV in less than two years’ time, Hyundai could also risk jeopardizing sales of the 2017 Hyundai IONIQ EV. And that, if we’re honest, makes us wonder why Hyundai isn’t just launching the IONIQ EV with 200-miles of range at the outset.
The reason for not doing so is most likely practical. Instead of placing the battery pack under the floor between the wheels (as most custom-built electric cars like the Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Bolt EV and Tesla Model S/X and 3 do) the Hyundai IONIQ EV actually places its battery pack in a space underneath the rear seats and in-between the rear wheels.
That’s partly because the Hyundai IONIQ’s chassis has been designed to accommodate electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrains — but it has the unfortunate side effect of leaving limited space for larger-capacity battery packs. In order to extend the IONIQ EV’s range, Hyundai is faced with a choice: to wait a few more years until a more energy-dense battery pack is available from its battery partner LG Chem; or develop a battery pack that can be squeezed into the central tunnel that passes between the rear seats and under the vehicle floor.
Both are possible, but the former is the most cost-effective solution, even if it kills Hyundai IONIQ EV sales between now and then.
Do you think Hyundai made a smart move to launch a limited-range electric car a few years before promising a 200+ mile variant will be available? Or do you think that the 2017 Hyundai IONIQ EV is something of a test for the company as a whole to practice its electric vehicle technology before entering the market more competitively in a few years time?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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