Hyundai’s first model exported outside South Korea was called the Pony. It was a cheap, no frills grocery getter aimed squarely at the bottom of the market. In various configurations, it was in production from 1975 until 1990 and it was the immediate predecessor of the Hyundai Excel and the Hyundai Accent. Nothing succeeds like success, so when Hyundai set its sights on foreign markets, it followed the plan that proved so potent for Honda and Toyota — offer very inexpensive cars to build brand recognition then slowly upgrade to bigger, better, and more expensive cars.
Today, Hyundai and corporate cousin KIA offer a full lineup of entry level, midsize, and larger near-luxury cars that are the equal of those from many older, more prestigious brands. The company has come a long way from the early days in the US when its ad campaigns focused on teaching Americans how to pronounce its name. “Hyundai — rhymes with Sunday,” they taught us over and over.
It has been 45 years since Hyundai first unveiled the Pony, so at the Frankfurt auto show last September it presented its 45 concept to commemorate the occasion. Now comes news that the production version of that car will be called the Hyundai NE EV and will be available in Europe early next year, where Hyundai desperately needs help meeting the new EU emissions standards. Sales in Korea are slated to begin in March and in the US next summer. No pricing information has been announced at this time.
Small On The Outside, Big On The Inside
The cool thing about electric cars is they need less room for engines, transmissions, driveshafts, and differentials, leaving a lot more room for people and their stuff. According to the Korean Car Blog, it will be a 5-door hatchback with a wheelbase as long as a Mercedes S Class sedan at 3 meters. Overall length is 4.63 meters and it is 1.89 meters wide by 1.6 meters high. It is the first car built on Hyundai’s e-GMP chassis, designed exclusively for electric cars. Every other electric car from the company relies on architecture that also accommodates cars with internal combustion engines.
To put the size of the car in perspective, the new Nissan Ariya is 4.59 meters long and the Tesla Model 3 is 4.69 meters in length. Height wise, the NE is taller than a sedan but lower than a full-size SUV. Call it a sporty crossover style vehicle if you need to give it a label.
The Electrical Bits
A new electric car should have impressive drivetrain specs and the NE does not disappoint. It uses an 800 volt propulsion system with batteries supplied by SK Innovation. Two battery sizes will be offered — 58 kWh and 73 kWh. In the Korean test cycle, they give the car a range of 354 and 450 kilometers respectively. The Korean Car Blog speculates that based on the performance of the Kona Electric, which is rated for 406 kilometers WLTP with its 64 kWh battery, the NE will be rated at 309 kilometers by the European WLTP test cycle for the smaller battery and 500 kilometers for the larger battery. No EPA ratings are available yet. In fact, there is no guarantee the smaller battery will beoffered in the US. The NE will be capable of charging at up to 400 kW of DC power, permitting an 80% charge in just 12 minutes.
Finally, the NE will be available in a dual motor all-wheel drive version and will offer Level 3 autonomous driving technology, although how that will compare to Tesla’s Autopilot or Cadillac’s Super Cruise is unknown at this time.
According to AutoDaum, Hyundai has already converted the second production line at its Ulsan Plant 1 to NE production. It plans to build 74,000 units in the first year and 89,000 units in 2022. Depending on price, those numbers could be too low to meet demand, especially when Tesla is targeting 1 million cars a year in the very near future. Whether Hyundai’s rather low production numbers for its electric cars are due to conservative management or constraints on battery supply is unknown.
Hyundai has not released any official photos of the production car, but you can get a sense of what it will look like from this Tweet.