Home Electric Vehicle 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Ownership Review

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric Ownership Review

We’re spending 12 months with this Hyundai Kona Electric, reviewing the full ownership experience with ongoing updates.

So low maintenance requirements

by Richard Homan on January 10, 2020

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 7,166 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $30.00
Days out of Service: 0

Without question, a pure electric car is the lowest-maintenance vehicle on the road. No oil or transmission fluid to change or top-off, less wear damage thanks to far fewer moving parts, brakes that last longer thanks to the regenerative braking system.

Looking at the owner’s manual for our long-term Hyundai Kona EV reinforced the ease of ownership of an electric vehicle in a big way. It is entirely possible that during our year with the Kona EV, our scheduled dealership maintenance/service costs will amount to a grand total of 30 bucks and less than half an hour out of our lives.

That’s it.

We had the tires rotated — standard procedure every 7,500 miles or so. Our local Hyundai dealer said, “Come on down.” Thirty bucks and 35 minutes later, we were back on the road. While we waited, we dug into the scheduled-maintenance page of the little SUV’s owner’s manual to see what lies next. Not much, apparently. The first major benchmark doesn’t come until 15,000 miles when the climate-control air filter needs to be replaced.

Most everything else falls under “Inspect and if necessary, adjust, correct” until 120,000 miles/96 months when the battery pack coolant gets replaced. If you drive in more severe conditions, of course, these maintenance recommendations will change, but it’s not unreasonable to expect that the cost of electric-car maintenance will be around 25% lower than that of a comparable internal-combustion (gasoline) vehicle.


And now, the 2020 KBB Electric Car Best Buy of 2020

by Richard Homan December 17, 2019

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 6,215 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

The box-stock Hyundai Kona has been taking home praise and awards from all quarters, including ours here at KBB. Now, it’s the Kona Electric’s turn to shine. This year, the Kona EV took home the Electric Car Best Buy of 2020 award in our annual Best Buys competition. This is the first time that we’ve called out the pure-electric vehicles, rather than combine them with the plug-in hybrids.

Our praise for the small SUV sounded loud and clear. “Affordable everyman’s vehicles like the 2020 Hyundai Kona Electric make choosing battery power to get to around all day easier — and more rewarding — than ever,” we said, as the bulk of our observations reflect many of the observations we’ve been making in this very Ownership Review.

Only now, however, do we have a staff consensus that the Kona Electric is also a smart purchase. This inaugural pure-electric award moves electric-car technology one step closer to the mainstream. And the Hyundai Kona EV gets to take the initial bow.


 

Thanksgiving Road Trip, Part III: Talking Turkey

by Richard Homan on December 2, 2019

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 6,035 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

At the end of my Thanksgiving road trip in our long-term Hyundai Kona EV, I came away with three absolute road-trip conclusions that anybody considering a pure electric automobile needs to know as of December 2019:

1. Owning two vehicles is still essential
As romantic (and idealistic) a notion as electric car ownership may be, the current EV infrastructure and shortage of charge stations, the longer charge times, and range issues that just don’t exist with gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles.

Going pure electric around town is fine, but when you need to start covering many hundreds of highway miles outside of densely populated areas, having a gas station at just about every exit is still the best. Two vehicles is still essential unless you want to rent a car (seldom a bargain), or you are under house arrest.

2. Traveling with a copilot is so much easier, that it is almost essential
On my solo Thanksgiving journey, there were dozens of time over the 1,000 miles I traveled that having a copilot to scour phone apps and calculate range, location and distances to our next charge station would have made a huge difference. Because of variables like speed, weather, and charger status, those decisions changed on a regular basis.

Having a partner in the Kona Electric would have made rolling with the punches a lot easier. It’s also nice to have somebody to talk to or play Crazy Eights with while the kilowatts roll in.

3. Smartphone apps have revolutionized EV road trips.
Without question, adding the charging-station applications (apps) to my iPhone made my trip plausible. I could figure out where the stations were (great maps with nav capability), which stations were available, and what the charge-status was during charging.

I can’t wait to add Hyundai’s Blue Link app, which contains some EV ownership info, to my phone.


 

Thanksgiving Road Trip, Part II: Giving thanks

by Richard Homan on November 27, 2019

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 5,526 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

…an 8-hour drive that ended up taking 13 hours. That’s the first thing you’ve got to take into account with an electric car road trip — any electric car road trip: Don’t eat lunch before you leave, because you’re going to have plenty of wait-time while you charge. But that’s what you already know going in. There are a few things that you definitely learn along the way.

The first new thing you learn is that you have to discover your comfort zone and how much margin you plan to build in before you commit to stopping for a recharge. I started out with a full charge showing, 260 miles of range showing in Normal mode on the Kona EV’s dash. That changed to 254 miles if I switched to Sport mode, and 264 miles if I chose ECO mode. As a precaution, I chose ECO mode and picked two potential stopping points for the first charge of the day.

I’m glad I did, because the route I chose included plenty of speed-limit-nudging and climbing through the mountains (legit mountains) surrounding L.A. I was also gaining my electric-highway legs, so I gave myself plenty of margin mileage (58 miles) still left on the range clock. I had traveled 165 miles (with 58 more still available) in the middle of California’s farmlands. Clearly, the Hyundai was holding its own. It was time to charge and eat lunch — efficient multitasking.

The 50kW-per-hour charge station I stopped at, however, was only charging at 36kW, then stopped charging completely shortly after I walked away to eat. I bring this up because one of the conclusions I came to after my trip was over is that the U.S. electric-car charging infrastructure still needs some work. In a fit of fury, I called the charge company — they didn’t sound shocked about the stoppage and gave me a free half-hour of extra charge time. That’s the good news: The 24/7/365 helpline offered by the EV charging networks is terrific.

Now happy and charged, I calculated a new pair of charge points and took off. At the second charge — another 75-minute affair — I milked the Kona’s range down to 7% (14 miles) and felt proud. Pride is poison, of course, and the station stopped charging two times. I caught both in short order because I was watching closer. I finally got fed up and took off with 170 miles of range. I turned off the Kona EV’s climate control and turned on the heated seat and steering wheel — that boosted the range to 181 miles.

Then the weather started to turn. First there was rain, which the little SUV didn’t mind at all. Next came the snow and more importantly, the colder weather — and cold temps, more than mountains and more than speed, are what seem to have the biggest effect on batteries. That’s when I stopped for the third charge that trip as an insurance measure, and made it to my family’s homestead in the Sierra “foothills” much wiser, lots to be thankful for, and equipped with a strategy for my return trip home.


 

Thanksgiving Road Trip, Part I: EV Road Trip?!

by Richard Homan on November 25, 2019

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 5,051 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Ah, the holiday season is here and that means treading over the river and through the asphalt woods on a road trip to our relatives’ dinner tables, no matter how far away. For me, that meant hitting the highway in our long-term Hyundai Kona Electric SUV for a 1,000-mile round-trip-family Thanksgiving from Los Angeles to California’s Sierra Nevada above Sacramento.

Already established as a city-mouse extraordinaire buy our first five months together (see below), the Kona EV’s range has never ventured beyond it’s 258-mile comfort zone without the guarantee of a working Level 2 charger close at hand. This was long-distance, high-speed highway work, mountain work, and cold-winter-weather work — the three things that electric cars hate the most.

And then there was my first-timer’s challenge of finding open, working and empty (unused) DC Fast Chargers along the way. That’s a crucial issue because charge stations aren’t like gas stations — with one on every corner. It’s also vital to know if the station you’re aimed for has an open spot, otherwise you have to wait even longer than the usual hour or so to get an 80% charge. (Remember after 80%, your charge power drops to preserve the batteries.)

Fortunately, there are plenty of smartphone apps to give you a pretty good map reckoning of the charge stations on your route and whether they’re being used or not. On my journey, I relied most often on the ChargePoint app because it willingly gave the locations of both ChargePoint charging stations and even competitors, like EVgo and Electrify America (trust me — you’ll be glad you joined them all).

This was going to be invaluable information, because I was not only cautious, but as I learned well during my travels, all public charging stations are not the same. Thus armed, I charged into battle alone, trusting our trusty Kona EV, and betting everything on the state’s electricity-for-sale infrastructure, making my way up the spine of California’s San Joaquin Valley on what would normally be an 8-hour drive…


 

Mileage Matters

by Andy Bornhop on November 14, 2019

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 4,137 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Do you know why I like getting into the Hyundai Kona Electric? Simple: The driver’s seat is always in the perfect position because Rico Homan, the car’s guardian and usual driver, is tall just like me.

But that’s far from the only reason. I also enjoy driving EVs, and the new Kona Electric is a particularly good one. It’s refined, it’s quick, it’s spunky and it looks great in Aqua Blue (my wife Patty’s name for the color, not Hyundai’s).

What’s more, this Hyundai EV has great range. When I got into the Kona last night after work, it was fully charged. In the Normal driving mode, the Kona had an indicated range of 254 miles. Then, however, I noticed that the Kona’s heater was on, so I shut it off, which bumped the indicated range to 258 miles, Hyundai’s claimed figure for the car.

When I reached home that night, I had driven the Kona Electric 16 miles, but the indicated range had dropped by only 11 miles, to 246. What gives?

Well, my commute home is entirely on city streets, with plenty of stop-and-go driving, which means the Kona Electric benefits from lots of electrical regeneration (battery charging during coasting and braking).

The Kona Electric’s paddles, mounted behind the steering wheel, also play a big role here. On the steep downhill I encounter each commute, I would pull back on the left paddle once to engage regen level 1 (or twice to engage regen level 2) to capture some regen without even touching the brake pedal.

At regen level 2, the Kona EV would slow a bit too much, to a rate that might annoy drivers behind me. When this happened, I’d simply pull back on the right paddle to lessen the regen and speed the car up a bit. For the record, the max regen level is 3, and each of the three levels is individually tailored for the Kona Electric’s Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes.

In everyday driving, the Kona EV can be driven while mostly using the left paddle instead of the actual brake pedal, even bringing the car to a complete stop. It’s fun to practice driving mostly with the paddles, and, trust us, you’ll get much smoother (and better at gauging stopping distances) the more you drive this electric Hyundai.

While we look forward to spending more time in the Kona Electric, it’s not all roses. With the front seat all the way back (Rico’s and my necessary seating position), there’s almost no rear legroom in the Kona. And at times, when you’re using the brake pedal to bring the electric Kona to a complete stop, that transition from vehicle barely moving to fully stopped is not as smooth as it should be.

Small nits, these, on a pricey but thoroughly impressive new electric car from Hyundai.


 

Prince of the City

by Richard Homan on November 5, 2019

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 2,994 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

As our long-term Hyundai Kona Electric approaches 3 months and 3,000 miles, the city miles are piling up. If you want a Google challenge, by the way, see if you can find anywhere the average number of miles an electric car travels in a year. I couldn’t, and I’m a pretty white-hot researcher.

Anyhow, we’re running about 1,000 miles per month. That’s a pretty good average, and I’d guess that most of the pure electric drivers out there drive less than that. So far, it’s been all city runs and my daily commute, but I’ve got a few road trips planned as the holidays approach, so we’ll get to see the Kona EV’s higher-speed road manners in the near future.

As a city cat, we’ve gotten to know our little watt-box SUV pretty well. Here are a few initial urban impressions. Keeping it charged on a Level 2 unit at home (at night) is all I need, and I have yet to be stunned by my electric bill. I knew that the home charger would add to my electric bill, but compared to buying gasoline, the convenience and cost are negligible.

In urban driving, the Kona makes me smile a lot. It’s very quiet at city speeds, and the slightly higher seating position (versus a passenger car) makes crowded urban traffic navigation a touch easier. The outward view is generous in all directions, and the mirrors do a good job of filling in any gaps. We’d like to adjust the margins on the Blind Spot Collision Warning system, however, which we feel are a bit too conservative and can get in the way when traffic is moderately crowded.

Parking is one of the Kona’s biggest city advantages. The little guy asks for only a subcompact amount of work to maneuver in and out of subcompact spaces, and the four corners are easy to work with. I lived in both San Francisco and Manhattan, and this Hyundai would adore either.

From my commuter seat, our 2019 Kona EV is a godsend. Beyond the carpool stickers that I lionized in our last update, the Hyundai’s smart cruise control exhibits a low-speed speed modulation and automatic-braking intelligence that means you only need to steer to stay happy even as the miles creep by. And as we noted in earlier reports, the Kona Electric’s acceleration is lively and ideal for Southern California’s culture of using the throttle to take advantage of holes in (and around) traffic when the opportunities present themselves.


 

Clean Air Vehicle Decals, AKA: Carpool lane stickers

by Richard Homan on October 15, 2019

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 2,329 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Today is a good day. Today’s the day we put our recently arrived California carpool stickers on our Hyundai Kona EV.

For a mere $22, the state sent us four purple stickers (two big, two small) that allow us to drive solo in the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes. The decals don’t expire until January 1st, 2023. That’s the good news, the bad news is that by and large, we’re personally not big fans of adding stickers (bumper or otherwise) to the exteriors of our cars.

Also tough to take: We realized that the Kona’s exterior panel surfaces weren’t especially looking forward to being defaced by the four stickers — one on each of the rear-side quarters, one on the right rear of the car, one on the front left. Nevertheless, it turns out that our esthetic needs pale in comparison to our hunger to avoid traffic. So, we slapped on the stickers.

Moreover, the Tesla Model 3 forums are alive with tales of expensive tickets being issued to drivers who didn’t abide the letter of the law in applying their stickers. So we even slid (hid?) the small front sticker on the Kona’s dark gray lower plastic outer bumper trim.

Now, we’re legal and a little freer than we were yesterday. And while we’re not sure that the carpool lanes in California are as unclotted as they once were, but any chance we get to maybe blast by a wall of stopped cars on the freeway feels pretty good.

Update, October 15: On this morning’s 8:00 am commute, something definitely happened. Our Kona’s four purple stickers built an entirely new road for me to get to work on. Now don’t say “Duh!” if you already carpool, or if you already have the HOV sticker. This is news for anybody who’s never gotten a break on their commute. Not every carpool-lane moment was free-flying, but I saved a ton of time and my stress level landed at about zero.


 

The cure for a disease we didn’t even know we had: Gas Station Anxiety

by Richard Homan on September 29, 2019

Price: $49,685 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 1,973 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Just about a year and a half ago, we conducted a rather enlightening comparison test of plug-in hybrid automobiles (PHEVs). We learned a lot about what a possible future of electrified transportation might start to look like in the coming years, and we began to change the course of our minds and our unconsciously preconceived prejudices about what the advantages of owning a home-charged vehicle would be.

Living for nearly 2,000 miles and around 15-20 Level 2 charges with our 2019 Hyundai Kona EV brought back one strong memory from that PHEV comparison test. As part of that comparison drive, we spent a morning at the Silicon Valley headquarters of ChargePoint, overseers of the world’s largest network of electric-vehicle chargers. Naturally, all of the ChargePoint employees were true believers with electric cars and home chargers. And they kept talking about the convenience, the convenience, the convenience.

Now we thought we knew what they meant. We fully understood from the outset that coming home and charging our 258-mile-range Kona while we slept would be a convenience. But so much more convenience appears as we live with the long-range EV. Plugging in really is a cinch and all that, but never having to think about which gas station to go to (please, not a Costco on a Friday…), which side of the street the station is on, and how much you can push it before you absolutely have to get gas — that gives peace of mind.

Additionally, a number of folks on the staff and in conversation have said that going to a gas station always makes them a little uncomfortable. We can understand that. Think about how cool it would be to never have to go to the store for groceries, and if groceries were cheaper when you already had them at home. Having a long-range electric car does that for you — you never have to go out of your way or interrupt the flow of your day, and you always start the day with a full 250-miles of range.

No matter how good corn nuts and Slurpees are, removing gas stations from your to-do list really does help improve your day.


 

The charged blessings of a Kona EV

by Richard Homan on September 10, 2019

Price: $46,130 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 1,401 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Although electric vehicles don’t make up a huge part of new-car sales yet, every carmaker worth its market share is paying some attention to the idea with variations of plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars. Those Tesla headlines and rock-star-parking charging stations at your local mall are no accident, and now there are enough variations of plug-in transportation that we can start to see who’s doing a good job of executing their electric vehicles.

Our long-term Hyundai Kona acts like it’s built by creative electric-car advocates who believe that the technology has a place in the world. It starts with a very usable 258-mile range — that we have a personal goal of stretching as high as we can — but that’s just where it starts. In our short time in the car, we find ourselves taken by a number of unexpected little things directly related to driving and owning this innovative Korean electric car. Here are four of its greatest hits so far.

Automatic locking the charge connector (the plug) to the charge port

Although it makes perfect, elegant sense, not all electric vehicles offer this. If you lock the Kona while charging, the charge connector can’t be removed from the charge port until you unlock the little SUV again. That is, unless you push the “AUTO” mode button on the left-hand driver-side dash panel. That mode automatically locks the charge connector in place as well, but unlocks the connector when the charge is complete. This helps make you a good citizen when using public chargers, allowing others to charge their vehicles without you having to show up and free up the public charger for the next person in line.

Illuminated charge port

Hyundai doesn’t go out of its way to promote this feature, but anybody who has ever tried to plug in their electric vehicle in a low-light/no-light situation knows why it rocks. Not everybody has the advantage of a charger in their well-lit garage. For non-electric car owners thinking about buying an electric car: If you’ve ever wasted time blindly fiddling for a motel light switch in the dark, you know the upside to being able to see what you’re doing.

Driver Only climate control capability

To reduce the energy drawn by the Kona’s climate control system — another drain on the car’s battery pack — Hyundai supplies a Driver Only button that saves energy by automatically blowing air through the driver’s vents only. No need to waste energy cooling an empty seat, eh?

Steering wheel braking paddles

Getting as much energy back into your electric car’s battery pack is the essence of extending the range you can travel. To that end, the Hyundai Kona EV — like all electric cars — converts the energy that’s necessarily created while slowing the car back into charge for the EV’s battery pack. While far from a perpetual-motion machine, smart regenerative braking does do a significant job of adding electric miles to the little Hyundai’s range.

As a bonus, the Kona’s driver can add or reduce the aggressiveness the regen system uses to slow the car using paddles mounted to the steering wheel. Varying the regenerating effect from a 0-3 scale, the left paddle increases the effect, while the right paddle decreases it. Additionally, if for some inexplicable reason you hate your brake pedal, you can use the left paddle to bring the Kona EV to a complete stop (all the while getting optimal regeneration).

These four smart-electric blessings earn the Hyundai Kona EV points and our esteem. Its parents thought about what the buyers really needed to make an electric car livable — remember that 258-mile range? — and delivered on those needs.


 

Our Great Electric Adventure begins: Plug in, turn on, drop prejudices

by Richard Homan on August 14, 2019

Price: $46,130 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 961 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0.00
Days out of Service: 0

Our year of reckoning has finally come. We bought a 2019 Kona Electric Ultimate from Hyundai, and now our lives are all about finding a charge, calculating distances, and learning a new way to drive: hypermiling that involves regenerative braking and getting excited about finding traffic jams.

Our front-wheel-drive, 4-door electric subcompact SUV came to us in Ceramic Blue, a color that doesn’t really commit at first to blue or green, but has caught the approving eye of more than one passerby so far. The Kona’s electric motor is shrug-rated at 201 horsepower, but the real powder in the guns is the 291 lb-ft of torque — aka, the magic behind acceleration — that’s fully available the moment your foot touches the accelerator. Around town, this power whips the little SUV into action, and even at near highway speeds, a quick shot around slower traffic is not unheard of.

A hefty battery pack gives the 2019 Hyundai Kona bragging rights for a pure-electric range of 258 miles — that’s enough distance to make even a hardcore gasoholic think twice before dismissing the battery-powered SUV-let. To charge up, the Kona Electric can use a 120-volt outlet (don’t bother), a 240-volt Level 2 charger (about 9 hours if you’ve managed to drain the batteries), or you can get an 80% charge in about 54 minutes at a DC fast-charging station.

In the coming posts, we’ll do a lot of testing, both instrumented and anecdotal, to get a sense of how much sense an electric car makes. Like good green citizens, we’ve applied for a California HOV (carpool) sticker and installed a 240-volt Level 2 charge port (see the post below) to take advantage of everything we can. Sweetly, Kona Electric’s $46,130 price tag comes with a $7,500 Federal tax credit to ease the pain.

Except for Maine, which is still working on it, all of the 10 states where the Kona Electric is currently being sold offer some enticing incentives and rebates.  In alphabetical order, those pilot states are California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont. In all honesty, we have no idea whether plug-in transportation is what the future looks like or not. But with ranges increasing and charge times decreasing every year, we figured it was about time to commit to a one-year test to find out what living in a battery-powered world actually feels like.

 


Before the great adventure even begins

by Richard Homan on July 24, 2019

Price: $TBD | Price yours
Current Odometer: 0 miles
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Days out of Service: 0

Southern California born and bred. That’s me. I was born on a freeway and bred for long, mind-numbingly slow SoCal commutes to work and a constant need for the escape of road trips to the mountains, desert and coast. I burned fossil fuels every day of my life from the age of 15-and-a-half. I’m one of those.

So who better than me — that gasoline-mainlining poster-child for electric-car range anxiety — to shepherd our new 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric. Am I not ready to become the righteous voice of praise and blame for a subcompact SUV with a battery pack, a motor, and an EPA-alleged range of 258 miles on a full charge? I am that guy.

As of this writing, we haven’t yet taken delivery of our Kona Electric, but if you had my dad for a dad, you know that planning ahead is money ahead.

Investing in a Level 2 charger

If you plan to take the leap to an electric vehicle as your primary mode of transportation — even if you don’t plan to have it as your only car — we recommend investing in a 240-volt Level 2 charging station. Well over half the States in the U.S. offer some kind of incentives, rebates and/or tax credits for putting in an EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment), that is, an electric vehicle charging station. It’s definitely worth looking into.

Depending on the quality and power output (think: speed) of the station a Level 2 charging station should cost between $400 and $1,000. These days, the sweet spot is about $635. Committed to that level, I chose a ClipperCreek HCS-50 with 40-Amp (9.6 kWh max) charging power. Additionally, your city may have an electric-friendly policy that supplies charging stations at no charge. Be careful, however, the technology changes quickly and “free” may not be the deal you were hoping for.

In California, it also cost me a little time and money to go downtown and get the electrical permit, but the paperwork was a cinch to complete. Plus, I felt good doing the work by the book — you will too.

Installation options


For the charging-station installation, you may be able to DIY the project, but as the great Tom Bryant once said to me: “Rico, you do what you do for a living so that you can pay people to do what they do for a living.” Of course, he was right and after a little research, I paid my local EVSE-install experts at Chamberlin Power about $700 to run 60 feet of line from the breaker box at the back of my house to the driveway. They added a 240-volt circuit breaker, ran the wire under the house, and mounted the charging station.

And that’s where we stand today: Ready to inaugurate the new charging station with our new Hyundai Kona Electric. I’m oddly satisfied, and apprehensively ready for this adventure — and my realtor tells me that adding the hardwired, lockable EV charging station at my house adds to the resale value over time. Accidentally, I feel smart again.

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