*A shortened edited version of this blog was published on CNB, NDTV. We would like to share the entire blog here.
In mid 2015 I happened to stumble upon the Nevada and Fremont Tesla factory videos while doing some research for implementation of robotics in my manufacturing unit (we have 10 of them in our unit now). Together in this journey of yearning for EVs’ was my friend Kiran Alangar and Cousin Padmanabh Bhat. Together we would follow Tesla news and drool over the Model S & Model X progress. That really opened our eyes to EVs’ and their advantages.
Now skip to April 1st 2016, or 31st March 2016 in USA, I saw the live stream of Elon introducing the Model 3, Tesla’s most affordable (~ 35,000 USD ) model yet, and India was also a country where they planned to enter and had opened up the reservation page for. After deliberating with Dad for a few days finally reserved one paying USD 1,000 on 7th April 2016. Tesla it seemed had bit off more than they could swallow, with the almost 400,000+ reservations.
So started my journey of waiting for Tesla to enter India. Elon’s multiple tweets of entering India gave me hope and them not fructifying brought disappointment.
Cut to June 12th 2019, I got the news that Hyundai India is planning to release Kona EV in India on July 9th , and I was straight away interested to test drive it. I called a couple of leading Hyundai dealerships and enquired about the same. They told me that they were not aware of the same and will ask their premium car sales person to give me a call back. In the meanwhile I tweeted to a few Tesla Owners I follow on twitter to get their feedback.
The Hyundai dealer sales person called me and gave me only a few details, he had visited the training session and told me that we may only get the base 39.2 kWh variant (EPA range of 250-260 km )and not the 64 kWh long range (EPA range of 410-420 km) which I was looking forward to so that I can travel long distances without range anxiety. ARAI range of Kona EV of 452 km/charge is not practical unless you hyper mile with no climate control on. I thank the sales rep and ask him to keep me informed.
July 1st week, the sales rep called me and asked can I come over to the showroom on 9th July for the official reveal of the Kona. , I was more than happy to. On July 9th , I went to the showroom where they had the Kona under wraps and they broadcast the live stream of Kona reveal at Buddh International Circuit on the Lounge TV.
I was both disappointed and happy after the reveal, as a few of the key features present in the international version like HUD, Lane keep Assist, Adaptive Cruise control are missing in the Indian offering. I was happy because it was introduced at a price of 25.3 lakh (I was expecting closer to 27-28 lakh) . On July 5th the finance minister had changes GST on EVs’ from 12% to 5% so I knew that if I waited a few days I will be saving 8% .
I always had the white Kona EV in mind. The dealership also had a test drive vehicle in Marina blue. As soon as I saw the car I was in love with the car design and colour. The test drive cemented my impression, the rear seat leg room was an issue and no rear ac vents too, but till then I had only heard of the instant torque of an EV, but first hand experiencing the 395 N-m of torque was something else. This is after me driving my daily driver Audi Q3, with 177 Ps power and a 0-100 kmph time of 8.2 s compared to 9.8 s in a Kona. But the difference in the way torque was delivered compared to a internal combustion 2.0 L TDI Quattro Audi was breathtaking and addictive. I gave all the info to Kiran and Padmanabh (and of course my wife Anjali and Mom) . They approved. I booked the Kona in the same Marina Blue as I test drove.
Notification for reduction of GST on EVs’ came and on August 1st the dealership sends me final rate after GST cut. I was more than happy to pay 1.6 Lakh less. Karnataka has ZERO road tax on EVs’ hence my on road cost is equal to Ex showroom + Insurance + registration fees all put together a nice round 25 Lakh. I was told that delivery will happen in a few days and was presently surprised when I got a call on 6th August that I can take delivery on 9th August morning. We took delivery on 9th and so starts my EV journey.
Immediately I liked the level 3 regeneration setting, thus enabling one pedal driving. The drive dynamics were pure bliss and I started sitting in the front passenger seat even when my driver would drive ( as front two seats are ventilated seats). Kiran and I stay in Bangalore and Padmanabh in Mangalore, so our road trip plans were on.
The first week I was amazed at the efficiency of Kona Electric, I averaged almost 8.8- 9 km/ kWh i.e. translating to almost 340-350 km on a single charge. Kona in India is sold with 2 chargers and 3 charging options. One charger is the portable 3 pin (16 A plug) trickle charger that can charge at 2.64 kW (12 A X 220 V) and will take 15-16 hours to charge from empty to full. Second is a Delta 7.2 kW wall charger (installed 15 days after receiving vehicle at my office) that takes 4-5 hours to charge from empty to full. My daily commute is around 60-70 km per day. With the 330 km minimum range in city conditions that I get, I rarely charge 2-2.5 hrs two times a week from the wall charger and use the portable charger to top up if required at home before a road trip.
Other than these two another way to charge is DC quick charge. In Bangalore surprisingly 11 locations that have or are about to go online at BESCOM offices spread around Bangalore-
The BESCOM corporate office has 3 Bharath EV std 15 kW DC charger and 1 25 kW CCS2/ CHAdeMO charger , all Delta make.
All other 10 locations have 1 Bharath EV std 15 kW DC charger and 1 25 kW CCS2/ CHAdeMO charger.
Short Road Trip
The 2nd week of ownership, we decided to tested out the Kona electric efficiency by traveling to Nandi Hills (1478 m above sea level vs 920 m for Bangalore) to understand the difference in consumption compared to city driving.
We started our journey at around 6 am with ambient temperature being around 15 Degrees. The outbound journey we drove 53.8 km ( Average 5.7 km/ kWh ) which can be split up into two parts, the normal level road drive where we averaged in the mid 8 km/kWh and the second part, the 12.6 km climb up to the top of Nandi hills where we averaged only 3 km/kWh. The drive up was effortless and I was easily zipping past other vehicle.
The return trip was more fun, regen all the way downhill, in the 8.2 km decent from the top we averaged 999 km/kWh and had added 23 km of range back into the battery.
Return trip we averaged 15.9 km/kWh for the 53 kms driven.
Total trip distance of 107.3 km we averaged a healthy 8.4km/kWh or around 330 km per charge.
Long Road Trip
(From Kiran's Perspective)
From the day Arun booked his Tesla Model 3, we started planning a long drive. When we were about lose hope of a long drive in an EV due to Tesla’s continuous delays in entering India, Hyundai gave us hope with the news Kona Electric being introduced. When Hyundai announced launch of Kona Electric in India we were hoping that they will offer both 39.2 kWh and 64 kWh battery packs as standard which they do in other markets. Unfortunately, Hyundai launched only 39.2 kWh option with only 1 standard trim. But something is better than nothing and props to Hyundai for taking the plunge.
We started the planning multiple routes around Bengaluru to get an idea of the highway range on Kona Electric. Since I do frequent trips to Mangalore, we decided to put it to test on the Bengaluru-Mangalore Highway( Nagvara-Goruguntepalya - Nelamangala – Hassan Route). The day before our trip, we charged the Kona to 100% and range being displayed on the Guess -O- Meter (GOM) at start of trip was 332 km with climate control and seat ventilation on level 3 and comfort mode on.
We started from Arun’s place at Nagavara around 9.30 am. Regen at level 3, AC on auto, temperature set at 22-23 Degrees. We were continuously monitoring the energy consumption. We used Level 3 Regen, so basically we did not have to use the brake pedal in the moderate Bengaluru traffic. On the way to Nelamangala we faced slight congestion near the first toll (Parle G factory toll).
As one usually does, we saw many interesting things on the highway. One among them was a Toyota Qualis being very aggressively driven, whose roof rail luggage carrier was about fall off and was being held on by the driver and the passengers by hand. But that driver swerving in and out of lanes with only one hand available for gear shift and steering made us drive carefully and the continuous regen braking as a result helped us gain more than 5-6 kms of range.
We were averaging around 8.3 km/kWh till Nelamanagala with moderate Bangalore traffic. We were happy and confident that we can go till Channarayapattana (Around 157 km from our starting point) and come back with 15 kms of range left.
Once on the highway we were cruising continuously around 100-120 kmph as the traffic was very low on the 6 lane road. But then we started to notice average consumption falling steadily. We were at 7.3 km/kWh with some hammering. There was no much traffic which means no regen which means no recharging battery. We decided to have a pit-stop at “Hotel Dhruvathare” for a quick bite. By the time we reached there we had covered ~ 96 km from our starting point and we had around 68% battery left. Many people were taking strolls around car. The green number plate and electric badging drew some attention. Till here Arun had the drivers hat on and from here, I took over.
We were in a little dilemma whether to go to our originally decided destination or turn back earlier (range anxiety sets in). Finally we decided to drive until we reach 55% battery charge before turning back so that we have a 5% buffer in case of any elevation gain on the return trip and no public fast chargers yet on the highway. At the turnaround point we had covered 127 kms.
I always had something I always wanted to try out. Let me explain, go along side an unexpecting high end car at a stop sign, wait for the signal to turn green , use the instant torque available in an EV and floor it, just to see the expression on that guys face (yes, I know reckless and yes ,I know childish). But once you start driving an EV, something weird happens. You become a more adult, responsible version of yourself. You want to be a more efficient driver. I began to try to better Arun’s efficiency rather than floor it and yes I was more efficient.
It was a little cloudy and drizzling in places, so decided to stop by some greenery for a customary photo session.
When we reached back to Nelamangala our average consumption was 7.8 km/kWh. From Nelamangala onwards again we got the expected moderate Bengaluru traffic. We decided to have lunch at “Halli Mane”, Malleswaram and post lunch go to BESCOM office at KR Circle to charge the car at the 25 kW DC charger. When we reached BESCOM office we had 16% juice and 51 km range left.
We charged the car with for half an hour which added about 75km of range.
So to summarize, on the highway a realistic range of 280-300 kms can be expected, maybe a little more if driven in ECO mode and at lower speeds (80-90 kmph), but that doesn’t serve the purpose of not compromising vis-à-vis a trip with an ICE car.
Positives of Kona Electric:
Instant torque, makes overtaking a breeze.
The silence other than some road noise at high speeds when VESS (Virtual Engine Sound System) is switched off.
Lower running cost (at even Rs.10/kWh , and 7.8 km/kWh average consumption) total trip distance ~255km cost us Rs.327/- which is easily 1/5th of a comparative petrol car and 1/4th a comparative diesel car.
Ventilated seats in the Kona makes for a very relaxing drive experience.
Regen makes one pedal driving possible and very engaging to drive.
Central console is very informative, so I can nerd out.
Amazing daily driver and small-ish road trip car.
Complementary Delta wall charger supplied is quite fast, adds 75-80 km of range per hour, thus I charge once/twice a week as needed when battery level falls to around 15-20%.
Love Android auto/ Apple car play ( which is not exclusive to EVs’)which basically makes the system future proof, e.i. as your phone updates , so will your navigation/infotainment etc.
Low maintenance cost as no engine air filter/oil changes ever. As physical brake is rarely used, brake pad and disc wear is minimal.
On top of all this being Emission free is the topping on the cake.
Negatives of Kona Electric:
Very limited rear leg room and trunk volume. It’s a large hatchback not really a SUV. Not an ideal car if driver and rear passengers are both tall.
No over the air updates or Blue link connectivity.
No driver assistance features in the India trim, like rain sensing wiper, LKA (lane keep assist), ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control), Rear cross traffic assist.
No front proximity sensors/camera is irritating as if you’re driving alone, approaching a DC fast charger takes a little getting used to as charge port is located on the front.
Charge port cover is little flimsy/plastic-ky.
Ground clearance is not very high, but it may be so on purpose to reduce drag.
Public DC fast charger infrastructure is not available on highways yet, hence a lot of planning will be required for any travel above 250 km.
My advice to other potential buyers and OEMS’:
If you are looking for a daily driver at a price point close to 17-20 Lakh, Kona Electric is worth paying the extra 5 Lakh as I believe it’s very aggressively positioned for what it offers. In India, I am of the opinion that for the younger generation (aha I am 33 now, so I am counting myself as part of the young generation) and the ever aspirational middle class, car is not a necessity to go from point A to B , it’s a lifestyle decision and its about the ownership experience. This I think needs to be understood by the OEMs’ still thinking about recovering their investments in ICE car platforms and delaying the decision to focus on EVs’. As this twitter exchange between Elon Musk and Mercedes-Benz goes, the very people who invented internal combustion engine are switching over to electric, about time other OEMs’ do it too.
The guilt free joy of driving an emission free vehicle is great. But over and above this, the perennial question of an Indian (even mine) as shown in a television advert “kinta deti hai?” will be the main reason to own an EV. The ultra low costs of operation and maintenance is what will drive the Indian buyer to an EV. Early adopter like any other electronic gadget will be paying a premium, but I think it’s worth doing so. The future is Electric!
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