By Simon Fleming, as told to David Waterworth
When searching for my next car I test drove the Mercedes EQC, Audi e-tron, Jaguar i-Pace, Tesla Model 3, Model S and hired a Tesla Model X for 3 days.
I worked out that the Hyundai Kona electric was the cheapest option for the range and could at least answer the question: Does an EV make sense for a Queensland medical device rep visiting all the hospitals in Queensland and nothern NSW and having to travel large distances by car?
A meagre car allowance and no fuel rebate meant an EV would save me a heap on running costs, and the depreciation as a business expense would allow a substantial tax advantage.
When I brought it home I had no charger except for the slow plug-in standard charger that came with the car, so I was terrified to drive it in case I ran out of charge. But after the second day I stopped worrying. With over 500km range at 100% there were days I didn’t even bother to plug the Kona in.
I only went to the high speed charger locally so I could work out how the Chargefox app worked and realised it was in the best park in the shopping centre. The car charged in about 30 minutes and cost $3.15 which was a drag as I hadn’t even finished my lunch.
After much research, I found one of the best solutions to charging with solar is the Zappi charger. At $1,400 and very few left in the country I managed to source an untethered one (no cable) so I can charge any type of EV I could likely get down the track without a huge headache of changing the charger or the integrated cable.
The Zappi charger changed the way I think about power too. Charging exclusively on solar feed I really haven’t paid for any power for the car since I have bought it. I can run it through the week and only charge on the weekend but if I need to go longer distances then I can boost it for an hour or so or I can rapid charge it to fill it up quickly overnight.
The Zappi allows me to charge at the push of a button: either a boost of an hour or so to get me through a slightly larger day or if there is no solar feed, or a rapid charge where it fills the batteries to my predetermined level as fast as the grid will allow it. This is a feature I rarely use but I have used it from time to time.
My wife was concerned our electricity cost would go through the roof and as we were also putting in a pool I did too. I shopped around and found a provider with a 17 cents per kilowatt-hour grid charge but only a 3c feed-in tariff and so I charge and run the pool during peak times meaning our power bill has actually gone down!
I do need to find a way that in summer I can use the 65kWh battery in the car to run our AC unit at night! The average house battery is just 5-6kWh and as it costs about $12,000. The car makes a better solution!
Currently, the Kona doesn’t have the ability to feed into the grid like the Nissan Leaf does, but I am sure at some point a technical boffin will work it out as I have solar and have the inverter ready to convert the 12V feed to a 240V for the grid already in the house.
I have found I no longer hunt for petrol prices chasing the cheapest, using supermarket dockets, buying unwanted items to get over the $30 to make sure I get the extra 4c discount and buying 2 x $2.50 milk at the servo to get the extra 4c off as well….. We no longer have 10 milks in the fridge going off to save a few $ on petrol!
A 2020 Kona Highlander petrol is currently priced at about $38,000 and the EV Kona is around $58,000, making an EV about $20,000 more than a petrol model.
I calculated that driving just 1,500km/month it would only take 40 months to pay off the extra $20,000. But the EV is only depreciating at about $4,000 per year (7%) meaning its resell will be higher than its depreciation in 3 years!
Insurance is $800 per year, which is comparable, but the servicing costs are significantly lower. Hyundai have a deal that if you get it serviced every 25,000km with them ($195 per service) then they throw in the breakdown service free.
One small aside to this is that though Hyundai does not include a spare tyre, after I discovered after a finger-sized hole appeared in my front passenger tyre that no goop would plug. I also discovered they do not cover a towing vehicle if it is as a result of a flat tyre and no spare tyre being available!
That was an interesting discovery at the roadside! Luckily RACQ platinum tows any vehicle the driver is driving so I managed to get it home.
The biggest issue we have found with the Kona Electric is that it is quite small inside. Not as small as the Nissan Leaf or i3, but I am 6 foot 2 inches and my eldest daughter is 5 foot 10. My two daughters have worked out to move the passenger seat forward or back depending on who is in the back.
My eldest daughter has learnt to drive in it and loves it. I set it up in regen level 1 which feels exactly like an ICE car and she loves it. So quick but also smooth. She wants one now!!!
Recently, I installed the infamous infinite improbability drive (see photo of rear of car). Now all I need to do is give it a really good cup of extremely hot tea and the universe is my playhouse!
David Waterworth is a researcher and writer, a retired school teacher who continues to provoke thought through his writing. He divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla.