Replacing your fossil miles

Bryce’s Kona electric charging at Sydney NRMA, using a Tritium 505 W with CCS2 and CHAdeMO leads.
Our regular writer Bryce Gaton explains why he’s just bought his first-ever new car, a Hyundai Kona electric vehicle.

Although the Kona is my first-ever new car, it’s not my first EV—it’s actually my fourth. I bought my first EV in 2013, a secondhand converted Hyundai Getz. My second was a 2011 Nissan Leaf (bought in 2015 and still going well) and my third was a converted Citroen Berlingo van that my then EV business built back in 2010 for an organic food delivery service and which I recently bought back as a work van for myself.

With the new EVs now available in Australia, I was finally able to buy one to replace all my fossil miles; I simply couldn’t wait any longer to stop running on squashed dinosaurs! Up until now, I could do half to three-quarters of my driving as electric, using my backup fossil car for trips exceeding 90km where there were no fast chargers—which, in Victoria, unless up the Hume Highway, is almost any trip longer than 90km.

I’ve had the car for just over two months and driven 4500km. It’s replaced virtually all of my previous fossil driving. I say ‘virtually all’, as I still have a semi-classic Renault Clio Sport for ‘driving fun’ trips that include a winding road and a sunny day.

Choosing the Kona

It was a hard call between a Kona electric and the Tesla Model 3. The Kona ticked more boxes, even though the Model 3 is reportedly more of a ‘driver’s car’, something I would prefer. Don’t get me wrong though: the Kona electric is no slouch and handles well!

My decision came down to size (I like smaller cars and the Kona is significantly shorter than the Model 3), accessible load entry (Kona is a hatch, Model 3 is a sedan with a boot) and driving range for the price. The Kona has a better range than the current standard-range Model 3, while the long-range Model 3 is $30,000 more than the Kona I bought.

Buying experience

The buying experience was ‘interesting’. I ended up running an AEVA dealer EV information briefing for the dealer as they (like all dealers) were still rather flummoxed as to how to explain an EV’s attributes and advantages to potential customers.

A particularly annoying part was the wait. I ordered the Kona back in February and it only arrived at the end of June. However, given their popularity and Hyundai only building 48,000 Kona electrics this year for the whole world (and only 40 of these per month for Australia), I guess I should feel lucky. If I had waited for the colour interior I wanted, the delay would have increased to early 2020. By comparison, Tesla Model 3 worldwide deliveries for 2019 will be between 350,000 and 400,000.

Example of historical data that can be found on the Kona’s display. This shows kilometres travelled and efficiency (kWh/100 km) for Bryce’s recent trips, including his trip to Sydney. 23 August was a typical driving day in Melbourne. 24 August was Melbourne to Canberra at 110 km/h with a heater on a third of the way. 25 August was Canberra to Sydney, again at 110 km/h, with no heater and lots of downhill, leading to higher efficiency. 27 August was Sydney to Canberra with a heater on half the time. 28 August was the return trip, Canberra to Melbourne, with a heater on for two-thirds of the time.

Charging

I put in a 32A (7kW) charging unit some time ago as a future-proof install for my 3.6kW Leaf, so I can manage a full charge of my Kona overnight at off-peak rates, in 9.5 hours from empty. However, I find I only need to charge the Kona every week or so and just to 80% is fine for sufficient day-to-day range (unlike my Leaf, which needed a 100% charge every couple of days). I only charge the Kona fully when I am going on a long run and need its full range.

To Sydney and back

Speaking of which, following my recent experience of driving it to Sydney and back, I can confidently say that battery EVs are now capable of full petrol/diesel car replacement, including interstate travel—at least where DC fast charging is available. Using DC fast charge, the trip time to Sydney was only an hour or so longer than it would have been in a petrol car.

I noted a couple of issues though. There are not yet enough DC chargers to be able to confidently take the fastest option of charging to 80% rather than 100%, in case the next charger is out of action or busy—not that any DC chargers on the Hume were busy; mine was the only EV at all of them! Charging from 80% to 100% can take as long as from 0% to 80% (e.g. 16 minutes from 66% to 80% in one example on my trip, or over an hour to get to 100%). That’s fine if you’re stopping for lunch, but not so good for a coffee stop.

I also had to go via Canberra due to the ‘Great Electron Desert’ from Albury to Sydney. However, this has been rectified as DC fast chargers have now opened at Jugiong and Holbrook in NSW.

Example of the dashboard display during DC fast charging on the way to Sydney: 16 minutes to 80% or one hour eight minutes to 100%!

What I like/don’t like

I love the flexible choices for using the regenerative braking; Hyundai definitely got that right. Settable to four levels, it allows for one-pedal driving around town, plus you can back it off on the highway to a level that allows for holding a consistent speed without ever touching the brake. And for those who like cruise control, the adaptive cruise control system is really effective. There’s excellent instrumentation too, and it’s right where I want it, unlike the Model 3’s centre dashboard. And it provides loads of good statistics and data.

It is a very practical package for loads as well—good load space, back seats that fold flat and a wide load opening. I do miss having a spare tyre, but that’s not an EV thing—it’s a general comment about many cars on the market these days.

I am not a fan of the higher riding, SUV/car crossover vehicles that are all the rage these days. But the Kona is not a large car and is more like a slightly higher riding station wagon so I can live with that. I would prefer more of a ‘driver’s car’, so perhaps I could be tempted to replace the Kona if Tesla brings out the smaller, cheaper hatch they are rumoured to be working on.

However, the Kona ticked more than enough boxes for me to justify making the leap to completely fossil-fuel free commuting. I certainly don’t regret the choice and so far can only recommend it as a great EV. I’ve found that the EV grin gets wider in proportion to the percentage of fossil miles your EV replaces!

FeatureHyundai Kona electricTesla Model 3, standard range
Battery64 kWh50 kWh
RangeNEDC: 557 km
WLTP: 449 km
US EPA (closest to real world): 420 km
NEDC: 470 km
WLTP: 406 km
US EPA (closest to real world): 386 km
ChargingAC: max 7 kW, full charge @ 7 kW = 9.5 hours

DC: max 70 kW, 80% charge (51 kWh) = 54 min
AC: max 11 kW, full charge @ 7 kW = 7 hours, 10 min; @11 kW = 4.5 hours

DC: max 120 kW, 80% charge (40 kWh) = 25 min
Dimensions4180 mm (length) x 1800/2070 mm (width, mirrors in/out) x 1570 mm (height)4694 mm (length) x 1850/2089 mm (width, mirrors in/out) x 1443 mm (height)
Boot volumeBoot: 332 L
Rear seat folded, loaded to roof: 1114 L
Boot: 425 L
Rear seat folded, loaded to roof not specified by Tesla
Author:
Bryce Gaton
Bryce Gaton is a member of the Melbourne EV branch of Renew and a committee member of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association.

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