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India's first all-electric SUV: Is it good enough for us?

1w ago

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The revolution has begun! Erm…….if you think of it, it is more of an evolution than a revolution. What am I on about? Electrification. The EV or the Electric Vehicle era is here and inevitably, it marks the beginning of the end of fossil-fuel-powered motors. For the developed sections of the world, Tesla’s been the torch bearer for this message. For India, Hyundai takes up this mantle as it recently launched it’s first all-electric vehicle - the Kona Electronic.

Yes, yes, I am aware of the fact that this isn’t India’s first all-electric vehicle. We already had the Mahindra e2o and eVerito, serving the purpose of electric vehicles in India but did it? Really? Scarce availability of charging stations and impractical range figures for daily driving were certain factors which lead to the unpopularity of these electric vehicles. A feat Hyundai aims to avoid accomplishing as it looks to address both these concerns with its latest offering.

First, addressing the ‘range-anxiety’ issue. The Kona Electric will come with a 39.2 kWh lithium-ion battery pack option for the subcontinent. Hyundai claims it will do 452kms on a single charge before it needs to get plugged in again. The battery pack can be charged via two options - a 50kW DC fast charger which will top up the battery pack in just 57 minutes or a 7.2kW wall box AC charger which will take its own sweet time of around 6 hours to perform the same task.

Which brings me to the second issue which Hyundai looks to address, availability of charging stations. The 7.2kW wall charger comes along with the car, which the user will supposedly use on a day-to-day basis. The fast charging option, however, will only be restricted to select Hyundai dealerships and Indian Oil Corporation stations. Wonder what you’ll do at Hyundai dealerships while your car racks up battery. A point to wonder about here - if carmakers are looking to install fast-charging stations at their dealerships, should we be expecting special lounge venues where car owners can relax while their car charges, similar to, say, a Tesla lounge? Food for thought!

Hyundai also provides you with another option to charge up the batteries - a portable charger. Said to come along with the electric SUV, owners will be able to plug this charger into any three-pin 15 Amp socket (easily available nationwide), capable of providing you with a range of about 50kms in close to 3 hours. Handy!

What about the car?

In terms of looks, it does stand out from the regular ICE cars but minutely. The only area where onlookers may keep staring into or might even ask you about is the front end. Hyundai has done away with the front grille and introduces an intaglio patterned body panel up front. The same area also houses the port for charging.

The front end follows the industry’s latest SUV design theme of having slim LED DRLs at the position where headlights reside, usually, while the headlamp cluster has been pushed below to the front bumper. Apart from this, the Kona Electric will also feature unique 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED tail-lights, plastic cladding all around the lower silhouette with roof rails topping off the SUV look.

Step inside and you’ll notice this Hyundai is a bit different than the bestseller models which contribute to the entry-level mass market. A premium wave sweeps the cabin with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, leather upholstery, a 7-inch digital dashboard, heads-up display, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system integrated with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, dual-zone climate control (with an option to direct air only to the driver’s side in case of low charge), reverse parking camera, 10-way electrically adjustable seats, electric sunroof and heated wing mirrors. That's a mouthful!

The Kona Electric will be available in only one variant - Premium. Powering this electric SUV is an electric motor, sitting on the front axle, producing 134hp and 395Nm of torque, with instant torque from the electric motors propelling the SUV from 0-100kmph in 9.7secs. Drivers can choose from four driving modes - Eco+, Eco, Comfort and Sport. The electric SUV also features paddle shifters for adjustable regenerative braking which basically implies to one-pedal driving, meaning as soon as the driver lifts off his/her foot from the accelerator pedal, the car automatically brakes. This stored braking energy then recharges the batteries, on-the-go. Clever!

Now, coming to the point which gets extra attention - price. Hyundai gets the Kona Electric to India as a CKD or Completely Knocked Down Unit with certain parts being manufactured in the Chennai plant, in order to keep the prices down. With that said, prices for India’s first all-electric SUV starts from INR 25.30 lakhs (ex-showroom, pan India).

With that price figure, it won’t exactly be a mass seller from Hyundai. But it comes off as a start towards an electric future, with relatively cheaper options expected to launch in the next five years. As of now, the Kona Electric will enjoy a monopoly in its segment. However, latest entrant MG is slated to release an electric SUV of its own by early 2020. Until then, the Kona Electric will be an all-important car for the Indian market as it looks to stand up to be the benchmark car for measuring how well electric cars can fair in the subcontinent.

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