Has a tipping point arrived for electric cars?

In Car Reviews, Hyundai by Neil Lyndon

Hyundai based themselves at the Malmaison Hotel in Edinburgh for a recent event to launch the new electric Ioniq.

Neil Lyndon reviews the Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium SE.
This choice of venue trawled up a writhing net full of unfortunate associations.

Last time, I was at this hotel for the launch of an electric car, it was a memorably wretched experience.

It was six or seven years ago. The car was an early experiment by a major European manufacturer to introduce an all-electric car for city commuters. Even though the car itself was as stylish as a food processor and as expensive to buy as a First Class round-the-world holiday, the grinning publicists promised that, with a range of 80+ miles, this vehicle would mark the tipping point in public acceptance of electric cars.

They weren’t exactly telling the truth.

I chose a route out of the city through Leith and then on to the A1 in the direction of the small town of Haddington, just under 20 miles away. I was reckoning this might be a typical commute for a worker in the Edinburgh area.

The car almost didn’t make it back to base. It was a dark winter morning so I was running both lights and air conditioning. The range meter plummeted like a stone dropping down a well. I had to switch off everything and creep back to the Malmaison, shivering behind the wheel while the windows fogged up. When I arrived, having covered under 40 miles, the remaining range was in single figures.

(As a reward for the manufacturers’ deceit – or wishful thinking, as they might prefer to call it – I doubt if they sold 100 of those cars, nationwide, in total.)

Hyundai promised a different experience with the Ioniq. They said that advances in lithium ion battery technology and a more powerful system of regenerative braking would ensure that the figure on the Ioniq’s range meter would fall directly in accordance with the number of miles covered. In fact, I should find that I covered more miles than the range meter indicated.

Thus, after many false dawns, the Ioniq may actually mark the moment when the tipping point arrived for electric cars.
They were telling the truth.

When I left the Malmaison to follow exactly the same route out to Haddington and back, the meter in the Ioniq gave a range of 92 miles. When I got back, having covered just under 40 miles, the range meter as giving a figure of 77 miles remaining.

Sure, it was a markedly different day – a hot, bright afternoon in September sunshine compared with a freezing, dark morning in February. Even so, the contrast was startling. The Ioniq is a car that could confidently be used for a 60-mile commute, even if the battery couldn’t be recharged during the day. Hyundai claim an overall maximum range of 174 miles but, for peace of mind, owners should probably count on half that number.

Thus, after many false dawns, the Ioniq may actually mark the moment when the tipping point arrived for electric cars.

Hyundai-Kia plan to include 22 ‘green’ cars in their range by 2020, of which the Ioniq (with EV, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions soon to be available) will be a key element. Each Ioniq version shares the platform of the new Kia Niro hybrid with weight-saving aluminium panels and high-strength steels to increase rigidity.

The EV is the least powerful of the Ioniq versions with only 118bhp but it generates 218Ib ft of torque and accelerates from 0-62mph in fractionally under 10 seconds, which makes it the fastest of the three. That rush is delivered in perfectly smooth, linear power with no vibration at all from the power plant. The absence of engine noise does, however, highlight road and wind noise around the body – a routine bugbear in electric cars.

The key advance in the Ioniq, however, is its graduated system for regenerative braking. Operated from paddles behind the steering-wheel, this three-stage system offers braking choices, when you lift off the accelerator pedal, that range from feeling as if a paper handkerchief has been deployed as a parachute brake to feeling as if a road roller has been attached to the back of the car. In the most potent setting, the charge of electricity might be enough to power the whole of Edinburgh for a second.

The Ioniq isn’t a Prius – car of the year, for my money – but that difference in quality is fairly reflected in the price. After picking up the £4500 government grant that comes with an Ioniq Electric, the all-in purchase price is £24495. The Hybrid Ioniq starts at £19995 – many thousands cheaper than a hybrid Prius.

For anybody who can make an EV their main car for work and family duties in a limited area (perhaps keeping a conventionally fuelled car as back-up for longer journeys), the Ioniq would make real sense.

Tipping point?……Maybe.

Car reviewed: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium SE – Price as tested £26,295 0-62mph 10.2 secs Top speed 103mph Maximium Range 174 miles Battery type Lithium-ion Polymer with 8 year warranty Electric Motor Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor (PMSM) Max Power 43.5PS Torque 170Nm Warranty 5 years unlimited mileage

  • Useful EV Range

  • Brisk performance

  • A sensible electric car

  • Wind noise and road noise

About the author

Neil Lyndon


Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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