In his 1962 book Diffusion of Innovations, Everett M. Rodgers defined five groups of individuals responsible for the adoption and eventual market penetration of a new idea or technology: the innovators, the early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and the laggards. And as with any market-based technology, the electric vehicle’s success depends on each of those groups embracing it.
Decent range, hatchback versatility, sprightly handling, bargain lease deal.
Poor braking performance, available only in California.
For more than a century, small independent companies and interested individuals served in the role of EV innovators, tinkering with the technology in garages and workshops. Arguably, the technology only reached the larger subset of early adopters within the past decade thanks to relatively affordable EV options such as the Nissan Leaf as well as the pricier but impressive Tesla Model S. With the arrival of the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Tesla Model 3, a pair of sub-$40,000 battery-electric vehicles with more than 200 miles of driving range, the EV is prepped to reach the more expansive (and more cautious) early majority.
Still, the early majority is a largely untapped and unproven group within the EV marketplace, which likely explains why the Hyundai Ioniq Electric instead targets already established battery-electric vehicles such as the Ford Focus Electric, the Leaf, and the Volkswagen e-Golf. Like those models, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric is a comfortable and versatile hatchback that can travel more than 100 miles between charges, while bearing a cost of entry that comes in at less than $31,000 before tax rebates.
Leading from Behind
Equipped with a 28.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric offers the least capacity in its competitive subset. And yet, the Korean hatchback can travel an EPA-rated 124 miles on a single charge, farther than both the Focus Electric and the Leaf and nearly matching the e-Golf’s 125 miles.
Credit Hyundai’s ability to squeeze out an EPA-estimated 136 MPGe (combined figure) from the Hyundai Ioniq Electric. That beats the e-Golf (119 MPGe), the Leaf (112), and the Focus (107). Over the course of 490 miles, we observed 135 MPGe from the electric hatch.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric’s operating efficiency is no fluke: Hyundai designed the model with aerodynamics and weight savings in mind. Features such as a permanently closed-off upper-grille area, a nearly flat undercarriage, and an aero-efficient Kamm-back profile (also used by the Toyota Prius) help the Ioniq slice through the air with a drag coefficient of just 0.24. Additionally, a set of Michelin Energy Saver A/S all-season tires wrapped around model-specific 16-inch wheels help lower rolling resistance.
With a curb weight of 3240 pounds, our Hyundai Ioniq EV was a substantial 384 pounds lighter than the last Focus Electric we tested. It also carries about 150 pounds less mass than both the e-Golf and the Leaf.
Recharging the Hyundai Ioniq Electric takes four hours and 25 minutes on a 240-volt power source, according to Hyundai. However, the company claims that the battery pack can be charged to 80 percent of capacity in as little as 23 minutes when using a 100-kilowatt DC fast-charging system.
Although the Hyundai Ioniq lacks the fine-tuned dynamic acumen of the e-Golf, the Hyundai’s limited mass makes it surprisingly enjoyable to push to its modest limits. Credit the nicely weighted steering and a low center of gravity courtesy of the battery pack’s location beneath the rear seat.
In order to fit the fully electric model’s physically larger battery pack (versus the PHEV and traditional hybrid Ioniqs) under its 60/40-split rear bench seat, Hyundai equipped the model with a space-efficient torsion-beam rear suspension in place of the Ioniq hybrid’s more sophisticated multilink setup. Even so, the Ioniq EV’s 24-cubic-foot cargo hold is down three cubes compared with the hybrid’s.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric is motivated by a single 118-hp permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor. Although its power output is modest, the motor provides an instantaneous 215 lb-ft of torque. While a zero-to-60-mph time of 8.6 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 16.7 seconds at 83 mph are nothing to brag about, both are slight improvements over the numbers put down by the 139-hp Ioniq hybrid, which needed 8.9 seconds and 16.9 seconds (at 82 mph) to complete both feats. More impressive was the Ioniq’s 30-to-50-mph passing time of 3.4 seconds, which edges that of the 268-hp Subaru WRXequipped with an automatic transmission by 0.1 second.
Trying to slow the Hyundai Ioniq Electric is an entirely different matter, however, with the hatch’s low-rolling-resistance tires contributing to an inexcusably long 194-foot stopping distance from 70 mph (versus 181 feet for the Chevy Bolt EV). Even worse, we found that the brake pedal lost any sense of mechanical feel in panic braking and that the Ioniq’s brakes suffered from noticeable fade after repeated use. Nevertheless, in typical, nonemergency braking situations, the electric hatchback comes to a halt with little drama.
Like other electric vehicles, the Hyundai Ioniq EV relies on a regenerative braking system to initially slow the car and replenish the battery pack. Paddle shifters on the steering wheel allow the driver to choose from four different regenerative-braking settings. At the lowest setting, the Ioniq requires the driver use the brake pedal to slow to a stop. At the highest setting, the EV can be brought almost to a halt simply by lifting off the accelerator pedal.
Inside, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric features a model-specific center console that trades the Ioniq hybrid’s console-mounted gearshift lever for a push-button setup, which allows for a large open area forward of the gear selector. As in the Ioniq hybrid, the Ioniq Electric features a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster that tailors the gauge design to each of the car’s three driving modes: Normal, Eco, and Sport. We spent most of our time in Normal mode, as Eco made the Ioniq Electric feel lethargic and Sport made the accelerator pedal far too jumpy.
The Price Is Right
With a starting price of $30,385, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric costs exactly $7000 more than the base Ioniq hybrid. Factor in tax credits of $7500 from the federal government and $2500 from the state of California—the only state where the Ioniq Electric is currently sold—and the cost of Hyundai’s EV is effectively lowered to $20,385. This can be further reduced by municipal credits available in certain locales.
The entry-level Hyundai Ioniq Electric includes a proximity key with push-button start, automatic climate control, heated front seats, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. For $33,385, the Limited trim level adds features such as blind-spot monitoring, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, LED headlights, and rear HVAC vents. Our test car also had the $3500 Ultimate package, which includes a power sunroof, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, adaptive cruise control, and advanced-safety items such as automated emergency braking and lane-departure warning. The grand total: $36,885.
Hyundai does one better, though, and allows California residents to lease an Ioniq Electric as part of its Ioniq Unlimited+ subscription plan. For $2500 down and $275 per month, Hyundai will hand you the keys to an Ioniq Electric for 36 months. The plan has no mileage limits and covers all wear items and scheduled maintenance; Hyundai also will reimburse customers for the cost of electricity used to power the Ioniq EV (up to 50,000 miles, which few three-year-lease customers will exceed). The plan’s monthly fee jumps to $305 per month for the better-equipped Limited and $365 per month for the top-of-the-line Limited with the Ultimate package. Given the generally poor resale value of modern electric vehicles, this leasing structure is quite attractive over an outright purchase.
The Hyundai Ioniq Electric may lack the driving range and the multistate sales model to appeal to the early majority of EV buyers, but Hyundai’s Ioniq Unlimited+ subscription plan might just be the ace in the hole that the model needs to sway early adopters away from the similarly priced e-Golf, Focus Electric, and Leaf.