Around the beginning of August, Zap-Map had an email from Hyundai’s press office titled: KONA Electric – a drive with a difference. Reading on, it invited us to come and test the new Kona Electric 64 kWh model on UK roads for the first time. So far, so ‘not different’, however, from there the email made good on its promise.
There was a challenge issued – namely, to see how far you can drive an electric car in 12 hours. Not a bad task to be set at all, made all the more difficult (and logistically easier at the same time) by running from 8 till 8 – that’s pm through to am. Safe to say, interest was well and truly piqued.
Having accepted and been sent a few joining instructions, we turned up at Kona rally HQ – Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire – knowing little more than already outlined. The challenge had been set, but the key information was being kept secret until the day itself.
So how did the event work? In short, it was run as a treasure hunt. Each of the seven teams of two drivers were given the task to set off from base, drive as far as they could overnight, before returning back to HQ 12 hours later. Those running out of charge or arriving late would be disqualified, otherwise there were no other restrictions.
The Kona Electric line-up before the challenge started
To give some structure to the event, and to try and keep drivers sane (and awake) there were a number of locations about the UK, mapped on an app, that provided points when visited. Those sites close to Waddesdon Manor were allocated five points, those further away between 15-30, and the most challenging points furthest away were scored 50 points. Some of these locations were simply ‘drive throughs’, while others required the team to get out and take a photo of a specific sight or scene to give bonus marks.
Added to that were the random challenges thrown in during the night, like ‘you have 20 minutes to find and take a photo of any other Hyundai’, or ‘bring back a packet of vegan biscuits’ – elements that had nothing to do with the Kona Electric, but good fun nonetheless. Those with the most points in the morning win.
So, the scene had been set. It’s a little long-winded I know, but then this was no ordinary event. Suffice to say, with 14 journalists in the room and about to drive about the southern half of the UK in an EV with a challenge before them, the atmosphere was competitive to say the least – pleasantly so, but honour was certainly at stake!
Our team’s workings for a winning formula!
Team Zap-Map set off – with esteemed motoring writer Phil Huff at the wheel initially – and headed north, picking up our first points at Silverstone, before heading on to Bruntingthorpe Proving Grounds near Leicester, Rutland Water, and then up to Skegness. The seaside Pier was one of the highest scoring locations on the challenge, with 50 available just getting there, and another 25 for a (rather dark) picture of the pier, beach and sea.
That run saw us cover around 170 miles, over a mixture of roads from country lanes to motorways, and almost everything in between – excluding only city streets really. It’s the sort of distance that would see a Nissan Leaf 40 kWh driver looking around for a charge point and pretty keenly too.
Us? Nope, we had more than 100 miles of range showing, with sensible driving but certainly no hypermiling to this point, so we changed drivers and pushed on towards our next planned destination, the other side of Norwich. En route, we stopped at Kings Lynn for a charge having now covered around 220 miles. The Kona Electric had enough remaining to continue running on to Norwich, but we decided to be more cautious, seeing that there were three CCS rapid chargers in one of the town’s car parks, and no problems reported on Zap-Map.
Charging was completed with no issues whatsoever, and we put in around 40 minutes of charge to set us up nicely for the next run. This saw us drive out to Norwich via Swaffham to the RAF Air Defence Radar Museum, before heading to Ipswich’s Question Mark Statue via a dogs-leg taking in the little village of Market Weston. I’m sure the East Anglian countryside looked rather pretty for the most part, it’s just in the early hours of the morning, views aren’t readily available.
Instead, after checking off Ipswich’s location off our map, we stopped for another charge at the Novitel hotel in the town, to make sure we had ample electrons to continue onwards. After another 30-40 minutes of charging, we got on the road again with question marks not on how many more miles the car could travel, but on how far traffic would let us go.
Stops through the night to morning – from Skegness to Kings Lynn, Ipswich, and Aylesbury (clockwise from top left)
In the end, we decided to forgo a couple of additional points stops, since a run around the top part of the M25 could delay us too much. On hindsight, I reckon we made the right choice. Traffic was flowing freely, but to have headed off the direct route back to base would have cost us too much time – certainly we’d not have had as easy a run back.
So we rounded London and made for home – stopping only at Aylesbury for a pack of biscuits and a top up charge. This first point was to appease one of the event organisers who had obviously become hungry during the night, and didn’t want to have to buy any more biscuits before Christmas. The latter point was a luxury really.
We didn’t need any more charge at all, and would have returned to Waddesdon Manor comfortably. However, when totting up all the points, Hyundai were offering two points for every percentage of charge remaining when finished. We had time, there was a charger available, so we stopped for 20 minutes for a bonus top-up.
Driving through the gates to Waddesdon Manor tired but happy, Team Zap-Map & Huff (our team name was actually Hy’n’drive, geddit?) parked up at 7:50 am, with half a mile short of 475 miles showing on the trip computer.
Once everyone had returned, and the room buzzing with anecdotes of the night’s adventures, the results were revealed. Totting up points from locations visited, challenges completed, miles covered, and charge remaining, we won! Having reached three of the ‘big point’ locations, completed all the random challenges, covered approaching 500 miles, and coming back with about a third of a battery charge remaining, we had racked up more than 900 points.
It must be said that our route was broadly similar to a couple of other teams, though they returned from Norwich via Cambridge rather than Ipswich. One car went up to Manchester before hitting charging problems, another headed towards north Wales before also coming across belligerent charge points, and at least two other cars made for Swansea. One of those also went for broke and got down to the Isle of Portland in Dorset, but fell foul of the finishing time.
Route taken on Hyundai Kona Electric rally – starting at Waddesdon Manor (near Oxford) and heading clockwise.
The overriding impression from those tales of success and woe was that the Hyundai Kona Electric’s range is very good. The car was faultless throughout, and the only teams to have a bumpy night were subjected to problems with charging infrastructure – not with the car.
From our point of view, we had a relatively serene night compared to others, with the challenge completed almost as easily as in a conventional car. The chargers all worked well for us, and the range available meant we didn’t have to worry about air conditioning being on, what phones we were charging, or any of the other factors that might impact upon an EV’s range. There wasn’t a hint of range anxiety, and we could probably have completed the same distance with one charge only if necessary – time permitting.
As such, the run was comfortable, and we only added an hour and a half really to what would be possible with a fully-brimmed petrol car that didn’t require topping up. The trip computer showed 474.5 miles covered over 10 hours and 40 minutes of driving. The longer breaks made things a bit easier on mind and body though, since 12 hours of solid driving – even when being a passenger – would have been tough to complete in any car.
In essence, the Kona Electric is a key model in the evolution of the EV. It will comfortably travel 250 miles with no concern for preserving range at all, and stretch to more than 275 miles with ease, but starts at only £30,000. I know that’s a lot of money for many, but what buyers get for their cash is a car that has a range around 90% a Tesla’s, but for less than half the price.
It’s a family car that can replace an existing petrol or diesel model in a one-car family, and the owners would barely notice the difference in terms of logistics. Many EV sceptics say, when explained that most new mass-market EVs can travel more than 150 miles on a charge, ‘yes, but what about those occasional long trips?’ Well, the chance to cover more than 500 miles in one go, without needing/allowing for a 45 minute break are few and far between. Obviously these trips do exist, but the Kona Electric is better suited to daily life than most other cars the majority of the time – and will still take a cross-country trip in its stride, with little need to wait and charge.
It was a clever event from Hyundai, showcasing brilliantly that the Kona Electric 64 kWh has the capability to be driven just as a ‘normal’ car can.