Hyundai unveiled the new Ioniq 5 electric vehicle to great fanfare in late February, and this week the Australia motoring media, and The Driven, got to inspect the first of the South Korean car-maker’s new electric vehicle range.
There was no opportunity to drive it, as it is yet to complete formal approvals in Australia, but even just a walk around, a sit-inside and a detailed presentation was enough to show why the Ioniq 5 is not just a significant new product for Hyundai, it is also one of the most significant new EV models that will reach Australian shores this year.
Many readers will be familiar with Hyundai’s previous electric models – the Kona and the Ioniq. Fine cars both, and popular too, but they were limited by the fact that they were essentially electric conversions of existing internal combustion engine cars, and that created limitations, and an engineering challenge, particularly in adapting the suspension and handling for the heavy batteries.
With the Ioniq 5, Hyundai has the opportunity to build a new electric vehicle from the ground up. It has created a new platform, the Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which will form a template for all its electric cars, be they “crossover” SUVs like the Ioniq 5, fully grown SUVs, sedans, or perhaps even utes.
And with the Ioniq 5 it is immediately obvious why this is important. For a start, it creates the opportunity for a whole new design, one distinctly electric. Ironically, the Ioniq 5 is based loosely around a 1970s vehicle that was never sold in Australia, the Pony. But it’s more rectangular feel, and neat additions like digital running lights, fit the bill for an electric vision.
Secondly, the interior has been completely rethought. Completely flat floors (no need for raised bits to acccomodate gear boxes) allow for more space. The centre console can be moved forward to create more room for the rear passengers, or can be moved back to allow for the driver to easily exit to the left if she or he chooses, or for the front passenger to slide into the driver’s seat. It’s actually really cool.
The rear bench can also be moved forward, to allow adults in the front easier access, contact and assistance for the kids who might be in the back row. The front seats morph into what the Hyundai folk call “anti-gravity” seats, which basically means they can lean back, throw up a leg rest and allow for a very comfortable snooze (see picture above).
There is plenty of head room, a glass roof (with a blind in case it’s hot), and even a “solar roof” option for solar cells inbuilt into the roof that would mainly be used to top up the 12-volt battery, but could, in theory, charge the car from zero to full in six months (yes, months) if needs must.
It also has great visualisation on two horizontal screens that provide the information needed for the driver. All the instrumentation has been moved forward to the dashboard.
What’s under the bonnet has also been rethought and recast. With the Kona and the Ioniq, Hyundai found itself obliged to build an electric motor that took up the more or less the same space as the petrol engine, even when it didn’t need to.
With the new platform, the electric motor – with fewer moving parts – is put in a container and hidden away. Less space is taken, and the charging cables can now be stored in the “frunk” (front trunk), and there is likely to be added space in the frunk when the Ioniq 5 finally swings into full production.
But as impressive as all of this looks, it is the charging options that flag the biggest change for the consumer. Much has been made of the possibilities of “vehicle to grid” (V2G), or “vehicle to home” (V2H), and how EVs can be used to support the household power needs, and also provide energy and critical services to the grid. Trials are already underway with the Nissan Leaf.
But that is taking some time to evolve, and the equipment for “bi-directional” charging is not cheap. So Hyundai, and more recently its partly owned offshoot Kia with its EV6, have decided to take a quick route around that problem by offering what they call ” vehicle to load”, essentially a plug that can be used anywhere and for just about anything, on a camping trip, for power tools, or to provide power to the house during an outage.
The technology is simple. An adaptor will allow any household appliance to be plugged in at the charging port, and another standard 240 volt plug will be installed under the back seat when the actual production vehicle arrives.
It will deliver up to 3.6kW, which means pretty much anything in the house can be used – although perhaps not an energy hungry electric oven, an air-con and a kettle at the same time.
Why is this important? Laura Jones, a battery integration expert from ANU, and a co-author of a new voluminous 169-page report on vehicles and the grid, mentioned this in a recent interview in the Energy Insiders podcast.
“At the moment when … vehicle to grid charges are quite expensive, there’s something so nice about the fact that you can just plug it into the car and it works when the power’s out,” she said.
Jones says that because of the complications around the protocols for vehicle-to-grid technology, power points in cars such as the Ioniq 5 and the Kia EV6 will have a much bigger use case in the short term.
“It’s about getting people to begin to think of their car as more than just a car, of also being able to do other things with it. And once you have sort of broken down that barrier … that cars can do other things as well, it becomes an easier sell for when you can also use it for grid services.”
Little wonder that this has been the centre of its video ads – this is something that other EVs, and particularly the Tesla portfolio, do not offer.
We’ll see the final design details of the Ioniq 5 when it arrives for its first deliveries later this year. And by then, hopefully, we will have had the opportunity to drive it. Broadly, it will come in two configurations, with 58 kWh or 72.6 kWh batteries, and two electric motor layouts, either with a rear motor only or with both front and rear motors.
At the top of the electric motor line-up is an all-wheel drive (AWD) option paired with the 72.6 kWh battery, producing a combined power output of 225 kW and 605 Nm of torque, acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, and a range of 470kms (WLTP).
And the cost? Well, that’s going to be interesting. The indication is that it will compete with the Tesla Model 3 ($66,900 before on roads), and try to come in below the Model Y (speculated to be from $75,000), but be more expensive than the Kona ($60,000). Not exactly low cost, but one that may have strong appeal. We’ll see.
PS. We will be posting a video showing the Vehicle to Load options and an interview with Hyundai’s head of future mobility in Australia, Scott Nargar, in the next few days.