For solar homes, full battery EVs smarter than extending range of plug-in hybrids | The Driven
Hyundai Ioniq

We are encouraging questions from readers about electric vehicles, and charging, and whatever else you want to learn. So please send them through and we will get our experts to respond, and invite other people to contribute through the comments section.

Our latest question comes from Andy, who asks:

I hope to buy the (new to Australia) Hyundai Ioniq PHEV as soon as it is released here. However it has only a 55Km full EV range and then it will switch to the Atkinson ICE for the remainder of the journey in hybrid mode.

As we have a large capacity Solar panel system, is it a remote possibility to range extend the 8.9kWh battery (7.9kWh usable) by adding a DIY Lithium-Ion battery pack without frying the electronics in the car (damage). Of course, Hyundai will not comment on this….

We turned, as usual, to our resident expert Bryce Gaton for our response.

Hi Andy – the short answer is ‘nothing’s impossible’.

However, you do imply in your question that you expect to regularly switch over to the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) during your journey. This suggests to me that a better question to ask is whether the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) is the most appropriate choice of vehicle for you.

I will therefore split your question into two parts:

  • Why such a range-extending modification is not a practicable solution for a new vehicle and
  • What other Electric Vehicle (EV) options may be a better fit to your needs.
  • So why is a range-extending option not something I would recommend for a new vehicle?
  1. Cost: Designing, building and installing a safe and reliable range extender battery will cost something in the range of $10,000 to $20,000 plus: and that may not even cover the labour for building and installing it. You could buy a much longer range PHEV or BEV for the price of the Ioniq PHEV plus range-extending modifications.
  2. Safety: Without very careful engineering (and the cost of certifying that work before putting it on the road) – the car would neither be ‘road legal’ with the modification, nor electrically or mechanically safe in a crash. (Think 50 plus kilos at several hundred volts flying around the cabin or ejected from the vehicle in a collision!).
  3. Legality: As mentioned in 2 above, the vehicle would not be road legal without being approved for the modifications. Without approval, this could lead you into a minefield – beginning with being fined for driving an ‘unroadworthy vehicle’, to the pain of the insurance company refusing the claim on any potential write-off of your new car.
  4. Practicality:you would be sacrificing part of your boot space, and vehicle carrying capacity, to always be carrying around something that is likely to weigh at least 50kg on top of the weight of the ICE motor, fuel tank and exhaust system. (There is a reason why PHEVs generally have smaller batteries – space and weight allowances are needed to accommodate the battery, ICE motor AND fuel tank).
  5. Warranty:Given the potential for serious damage and/or at least major confusion to the electronics, battery system, suspension etc. of the Ioniq PHEV – Hyundai would justifiably not want to warranty any part of the vehicle after such a modification. Is the loss of any warranty cover worth the modification work and cost when better options may in fact be available to you?

By the way (and before the comments start flooding in) it is worth noting that owners of older Toyota Prius’ have made just such modifications to extend their EV range.

However, the additions are via a readily available kit that has been engineered and manufactured to suit, with a price that reflects amortising the engineering over sales of many of them. (And even then, some owners have had no end of problems getting it to work properly).

Such a kit may become available in the future for the Ioniq PHEV – but not before the warranty has expired as nobody would be likely to buy the kit until losing the warranty won’t be an issue!

  • So what vehicle options might better fit the specifications of an EV that regularly does slightly to somewhat more than 50 km in a daily trip, plus the occasional long trip?

For this discussion, I am taking the budget to be the Ioniq PHEV plus the cost of a road-legal range extending modification.  This would comprise $45,000 on-the-road for the Ioniq plus $20,000 for the modifications – so say $65,000 in total.

For that money – in 6 to 12 months’ time you could look at a second-hand 2018 i3 94Ah REx PHEV. (The BMW i3 REx has a very small range extender ICE motor and a 9L fuel tank).

A 2018 one not only has a real-world near 200km battery-only range – it also has DC fast charge AND single or 3 phase AC charging to 11kw. By next year they should have depreciated to the $65K range (based on BMW’s usual steep depreciation curves!).

However, you will need to carefully check any second-hand buy as you will need to ensure it has the CCS2 charging port that supports these charging options. The 2017 and earlier i3 has either a Type 1 or a CCS1 charging port. Neither are able to be used here in Australia for DC fast-charge or 3 phase AC charging.

Aside from the i3, there are no other PHEVs available that offer a reliable real-world range of 50km or more. However for a $65,000 budget there are (or will be soon) several battery electric vehicles (BEVs) that offer 200 – 420 km ranges plus DC fast-charging for quick recharges on longer trips.

Summing up – the BEV and PHEV options that may better suit your driving needs and minimise ICE kms are:

  1. Quoted ranges are from the Green Vehicle Guide: possible. Those not yet available in Australia use the NEDC ratings.
  2. Real world ranges are either US EPA ranges except for Renault, where manufacturer quoted real-world range used.
  3. Approximate base model price based on currently available listings, inc on-road costs (ORCs).
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