Like it or not (Mr. President), the clean energy train has left the station, which means alternative fuel vehicles will continue to arrive at a dealership near you. This year Hyundai bolstered that prediction with the introduction of its all-new hybrid, the 2017 Ioniq. Latino Traffic Report recently attended the regional launch in Durham, North Carolina to drive not one, not two, but all three versions.
Rather than wait years to complete the lineup, Hyundai will build three powertrains on one dedicated platform, the Ioniq Hybrid, Electric (with a range of 124 miles), and a Plug-in Hybrid (available in 2018). All three were at the launch where they performed nicely, and like the name, a cross between “ion and unique,” the Ioniqs displayed distinctive good looks.
I appreciated its sporty accents, like LED daytime running lights, and while the arched roofline may resemble that of other hybrids, it’s a functional necessity to maximize aerodynamics and achieve an industry-leading 0.24 coefficient of drag.
According to WardsAuto, in the United States, “Total EV sales grew to 79,915 units from 72,374 in 2015. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) sales, counted in a separate category, totaled 71,329 units, up 63 percent from 43,815 in 2015, and hybrid sales totaled 373,359 units in 2016, up from 341,792 in 2015.” Hyundai believes that millennials will energize the market further, increasing sales, according to Brandon Ramirez, senior group manager, product planning at Hyundai Motor America.
A recent addition to the segment, the Ioniq gets the benefit of bringing up the rear, improving on what the first hybrids started, like offering the best combined fuel economy in its class, 58 miles per gallon (mpg) with the Ioniq Blue trim (non-Blue trims should achieve 55 mpg combined). At the launch, I averaged 51 mpg with the Ioniq Hybrid Limited trim. A new 1.6-liter direct-injected Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine powers the Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrids, delivering an estimated 104 horsepower and an estimated 109 lbs.–ft. of torque. On the Hybrid, it’s matched to a quick-shifting six-speed double-clutch transmission, an electric motor that delivers an estimated 43 horsepower with an estimated maximum torque of 125 lbs.–ft., and a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery (with a lifetime warranty). With an 8.9 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery, the Plug-in Hybrid provides an all-electric range (before the gas-powered engine kicks in) of more than 27 miles while the Ioniq Electric offers an estimated driving range of 124 miles with a 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery . Mated to a single-speed reduction-gear transmission, the electric motor has a maximum output of 118 horsepower and 218 lbs.–ft. of torque. The Ioniq Electric has an EPA-estimated 136 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) rating, better than any electric vehicle sold in the U.S.
Range anxiety plus the length of time needed to charge can discourage potential buyers. The Ioniq may offer some solutions. Charging the Ioniq Electric to 80 percent should take approximately 23 minutes using an SAE Combo Level-3 DC, 100 kW fast charger. An integrated In-Cable Control Box also allows drivers to charge their Ioniq using a standard household electric socket.
Enhancing the car’s fuel efficiency and dynamic driving characteristics, the driver can select either SPORT or ECO modes. On the launch, the SPORT mode did add oomph but it was the Plug-in Hybrid and Electric models that offered noticeably smoother rides.
The Ioniq reflects a deeper commitment to green from Hyundai with its use of recycled or ecologically-sensitive materials, like interior door covers made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone.
Innovations continue on the inside with a seven-inch TFT instrument cluster that displays all gauge functions and Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system, which is standard on the Electric model for three years. Placing the battery underneath the rear seats also adds extra passenger space on the Ioniq hybrid, an estimated 122.7 cubic feet and best-in-class cargo of 26.5 cubic feet, plus it gives the Ioniq a lower center of gravity for better road hugging. Handy features, like a rearview camera are standard, but safety technology, like a blindspot warning system, remain optional, even on the more expensive Electric model.
Looking to the future, Hyundai and the all-new Ioniq will continue to attract consumers to the green car segment. Pricing for the Hybrid and Electric (pricing for the Plug-in was not available) models should start at $23,035 and $30,335 respectively, and the Electric will be eligible for government tax credits of $7,500, according to the IRS.
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