Driving down the back straight—a 1.2km-long stretch—of the Buddh International Circuit at 192 kmph is, quite frankly, nothing spectacular for me. Been there, done that much faster, quite a few times. However, doing that without a shrieking engine sending vibrations through your soul is a bit disconcerting. Here is the thing with electric cars, it is the silence that gets you, not the fact that a family car has over 435 brake horsepower (BHP) and can get from a standing start to a 100 kmph in just over five seconds. It is the silence, yes, you can hear the air being parted, but that does not scream out like thousands of small explosions being converted into forward motion. You question yourself, is this a car that you’re driving or something from the future?
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It is a car all right. There is a steering wheel, a very fancy two-spoke one. You have all the modern conveniences such as ventilated seats and a 14-speaker audio system. In fact, that audio system can play a bit of sound to assure your brain that it is a car that you are driving. The rear seats are comfortable, spacious in fact. There is enough space for a mid-sized suitcase for every member of the family.
And quite a bit of range as well.
Yup, you read that right. The car that I was driving, the upcoming Kia EV6, promises up to 500 km of range on a single charge. This is not just a psychological barrier crossed, this is an important one for me personally because 500 km is the distance from my house to that of my in-laws. It is not the silence or the speed where this car excels, it is this promised range. Maybe it might fall short, the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) is not a place to do a range test, that is a task for a later day. But 500 km of range also means that in all likelihood, as a city commuter, you would only need to charge this vehicle twice a month if your running is a 1,000 km in 30 days — 500 km of range is more than many cars give you with a full tank of fuel. The 500 km of range is an anti-anxiety solution, because it removes the very notion of ‘range anxiety’ that has kept people away from buying electric vehicles.
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…and the charge question
And even when you need to charge it, the Kia EV6 which is based on Hyundai Motor Corporation’s new e-GMP (electric Global Modular Platform) that will underpin Kia and Hyundai’s electric push, can charge from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in 18 minutes from a 350kW direct-current (DC) fast charger. A typical 10kW alternating current (AC) wallbox will charge the 77.2 kilowatt-hour battery under the floor of the car in eight hours. But Harpreet Singh Brar, national head of sales and marketing at Kia India, says that the carmaker will install a nationwide network of these fast-charging stations at Kia showrooms and other public areas. Alongside what other car companies are doing and investments by Tata Power and a multitude of startups on charging stations across the country, the issue of finding a charging station for electric vehicles is becoming a non-sequitur.
In fact, the EV6 can act as its own power source. The e-GMP platform adopted on the car supports vehicle-to-vehicle charging, a useful buddy system to give a friend a charging boost on the road. But more impressively, the EV6 battery pack can act as a giant inverter battery for your house. Through its ‘Vehicle2Load’ system, the EV6 can actually provide power to your house in case of a blackout. Details on how the system will work in India are still a bit thin and might require some wiring modifications in your house, but it can be a massively useful feature in emergencies like when a tree falls down on a power line as recently happened in many parts of North India.
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Testing the waters
Make no mistakes, the Kia EV6 despite its unimaginative name will not be cheap. The first 100 units of the vehicle being brought to India are completely built units; and despite entreaties by carmakers, including Tesla’s Elon Musk for tax concessions for imported electric vehicles, the EV6 will pay the same amount of import duties as an Italian supercar. While the EV6 will be officially launched in the first week of June, based on its $54,000 sticker price in the United States, chances are that it will cost at least Rs 65 lakh in India if not more. And while that might seem like an awful lot for a mass-market brand like Kia, the EV6 will possibly be one of the best electric vehicles available when it goes on sale. In fact, in the United States, Kia unashamedly pits the EV6 against the Tesla Model Y.
Kia insiders believe that all 100 units are already spoken for and they believe that this will be a ‘halo’ car for them and when they bring in more ‘affordable’ electric vehicles, think electrified versions of cars like the Seltos in a couple of years, the EV6 would have proven that the e-GMP platform is among the best in the world.
@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)