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Tesla’s Next Major Competitor Could Be… Hyundai

Tesla’s Next Major Competitor Could Be… Hyundai

The rise of the EV is a disruptive moment in the auto industry. It could only have been instigated in its current form by a company outside the incumbent brands like Tesla. But other emerging players are clearly seeing EVs as an opportunity to rise up the rankings. The bulk of newcomers are likely to come from China, with a wealth of emerging Chinese brands like BYD, Xpeng, NIO and Geely aiming to seize their chance. But there’s another player with great potential to become a major player thanks to the shift to EVs: Hyundai.

Japanese manufacturers Toyota and Nissan have been respected for quality for decades now, and Toyota was the most valuable car company in the world until Tesla’s exploding share price usurped it. Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai, however, haven’t managed to escape the rung below the Japanese, despite arguably producing cars that are just as good, and that are backed by incredible warranties, which shows the confidence these manufacturers have in their products.

Until Volkswagen released the ID.3 and ID.4, Kia and Hyundai had found a clear opening between the premium Tesla models and more city-oriented Renault Zoe and venerable Nissan Leaf. The Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul EV and Kia e-Niro provide range up to 300 miles and decent performance for less than any Tesla, in practical formats and packed with technology. All these cars come from a collaboration between Kia and Hyundai, so share a couple of drivetrains. None are pure BEVs, but they still deliver very competent performance, efficiency and driving experience. The Kona had sold 100,000 units by July 2020, showing its popularity.

Hyundai is getting ready for the next step, however, and has spun off an all-electric brand called Ioniq, the same as one of its existing EVs. This new brand will use a dedicated electric platform called E-GMP, and the first product employing this platform was recently revealed – the Ioniq 5. It looks amazing, with concept-car styling that, like the Honda-e, appears to have made it out of the design studio all the way into the real world.

The specs are way beyond “me too” as well. Battery sizes range up to 72.6kWh, with WLTP range up to 300 miles. With 800V charging supported, the Ioniq five can take advantage of 350kW charging stations such as Ionity’s, allowing it to replenish its battery to 80% in just 18 minutes. A mere five minutes will provide over 60 miles of range. There’s an all-wheel-drive option delivering over 300hp and 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds. That’s around what the new Porsche Taycan RWD can deliver, and faster than a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus.

One particularly noteworthy innovation is the Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) system, allowing the vehicle to supply up to 3.6kW to external devices via a typical AC socket. The top Honda e trim also offers a similar facility, but the Ioniq 5’s version is not only available for back seat passengers but is also included next to the external charge port for devices outside the car. So if you want to inflate a camp bed, power a fridge on a picknick, or recharge your mountain e-bike, you can.

This is not a prototype that will be toned down before it goes on the market, either. A car looking just like the press image has been spotted on the streets of Seoul, and another Ioniq 5 was featured in a Chelsea Football Club training session in the UK, where its V2L ability was employed by machines shooting footballs at the players.

The Ioniq 5 is just the first in a line of pure BEVs from the new brand. There will be an Ioniq 6 later in 2022 and an Ioniq 7 in early 2024. However, Hyundai isn’t putting its eggs only in the electric basket. The company has also developed hydrogen-powered cars including the Nexo, which is one of the two FCEVs worth considering alongside Toyota’s Mirai. However, Hyundai seems most interested in hydrogen for its truck and bus business via its XCIENT Fuel Cell transportation solution.

Despite the Nexo, Hyundai’s focus for passenger cars is clearly on BEVs. The Ioniq 5 will be priced around the same as a Tesla Model Y Long Range. With similar performance specification, almost as much range, and some enticingly innovative features like V2L, the car has clear appeal. It will also be going on sale in Europe in mid-2021, which is likely to mean delivery ahead of the Tesla Model Y.

It definitely won’t be plain sailing for the Korean company. Hyundai has recently had to recall a whopping 82,000 of its Kona EVs for battery replacement after a fire battery risk was identified. This recall is expected to cost about $900 million. But with its Ioniq brand, Hyundai is clearly aiming to elevate itself from secondary status to leading player in the EV revolution. The Ioniq 5 looks like a promising first step up.

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