Hyundai Is Preparing for Big Electric Car Future, Even With Anemic Sales of Ioniq EV

By · September 27, 2017

There will be a 240-mile EV version of the Hyundai Kona, as soon as 2019.

Of all the electric cars available today, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric arguably provides the most compelling combination of decent range, at 124 miles on a single charge, and an attractive $29,500 pre-incentive price. But by offering the Ioniq Electric only in California, and keeping marketing efforts on simmer, the potential success for Hyundai’s EV is limited. Yet, even with anemic current sales of the Ioniq EV, Hyundai reiterated is plans for an exciting line-up of plug-in cars in the near future.

Hyundai last month mapped out its EV strategy. The company said it was working on a long-range, 310-mile electric vehicle due around 2021. More importantly, that vehicle will run on a new dedicated platform for EVs, thus paving the way for multiple electric-vehicle offerings.

Hyundai recently confirmed its plans to offer an all-electric 240-mile Kona SUV in about 2019. (The Kona, a small SUV crossover, will be introduced as a gas model in the US in early 2018.) The EV market needs a good high-range small SUV, although it’s too early for details, including price. Hyundai also said its Genesis luxury brand could get an all-electric model in 2021.

Meanwhile, in 2017, General Motors is selling about 2,000 Bolts per month compared to about 50 Ioniq EV monthly sales. The discrepancy is obviously partly explained by the fact that the Ioniq EV is only available in California. But the Ioniq also lags significantly behind the Bolt in terms of range—a shortcoming that could be corrected with new Hyundai models.

The Ioniq EV’s range—essentially the same as the new 2017 Volkswagen E-Golf, which is only now arriving at dealerships—is second only to the Chevy Bolt’s 238 miles on a single charge. The fact that the Ioniq’s $29,500 base price is $8,000 less than Bolt’s does not seem to be inspiring EV buyers to take one home. (Keep in mind that the 150-mile 2018 Nissan LEAF goes on sale in the US early next year.)

Of course, it doesn’t help that Hyundai this month issued a recall of 218 units of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric hatchback. The recall was based on manufacturing defects in the electric power control unit that could cause a stall and a risk of a crash. Dealers will inspect and replace the problem, as necessary, for free. Hyundai will begin notifying owners on Sept. 29—or owners can call the automaker at 800-633-5151.

While its EV production plans are in process, Hyundai’s short-term electrification strategy is focused on hybrids—with and without a plug. The gas-electric no-plug Ioniq is selling at a steady clip—more than 7,000 so far this year—and a plug-in hybrid version of the Ioniq with 27 miles of all-electric range is due in 10 states before the end of 2017.

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