The Hyundai IONIQ 5 was launched in India earlier this year and I drove it for a short while in and around Goa. I was left fairly impressed. There is a good reason why this car, the first by Hyundai Motor Company’s Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), has won big awards in almost every market it has been launched in. But a short 50-kilometer drive in a car rarely gives you any insights into what it feels like to live with it. But over the past six-odd weeks I have been driving an IONIQ 5 regularly, it has become both my daily drive and highway cruiser, and I have learned a lot about how it is to live with an electric car, both the good and the bad sides of it.
First, I am pleased as punch to charge this car in stilt parking at my apartment in South Delhi. And honestly, it isn’t all just about the cost, although that does have a role to play. The ability to ‘fill up’ your vehicle in the comfort of your home is truly special. I’m guessing you do not have a private petrol pump at home. Yes, the costs of charging an electric car are incredible. However, despite all the various surcharges that have mysteriously been increasing on the electric bills of consumers in New Delhi, it costs me a maximum of Rs 8.50/unit, to charge an electric vehicle at home. In late-2020 Audi India had kindly installed a wall box in my house that can charge electric vehicles at a maximum of 11 units/hour. The IONIQ5’s 72.6kWh battery takes under seven hours to get fully charged.
As an urban commuter, the IONIQ5 provided an impressive average of almost seven kilometers per unit of electricity, costing only Rs 1.2 per kilometer. And that is on a car with all the bells and whistles, such as ventilated seats and an excellent Bose audio system. The IONIQ5 also has Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). That is because the new E-GMP, which also features the Kia EV6, has four different levels of regenerative power, including level zero. The regenerative power allows the car to recover energy when you break or even take your foot off the pedal. So, when you are coasting down a flyover, it can regain a significant amount of the energy used to go up.
Before driving the IONIQ 5, I drove Hyundai’s Tucson SUV, which is more or less the same size and has similar functions. Sure, in terms of design language, the Tucson looks a bit more contemporary compared to the cool retrofuturism on the IONIQ 5. But both cars had ADAS, the Bose audio system, and ventilated seats.
However, the IONIQ 5 stands out in terms of fuel efficiency. The Tucson, running on diesel, only averaged around 12 kilometers per liter, which works out to around Rs 7.50 per kilometer in Delhi. The difference in operating costs is even more pronounced with the petrol version of the Tucson.
When you consider on-road prices, the top-end Tucson costs Rs 42.5 lakh and the IONIQ 5 an estimated Rs 51 lakh. You have to compare on-road prices here because electric vehicles have a 5 percent GST rate, while SUVs like the Tucson have a 43 percent rate. In regions like Delhi, electric vehicles (EVs) currently do not have to pay road tax or registration charges.
All these points hold true for current residential electricity prices, diesel, and petrol prices as of July 2023. However, we must consider the possibility of fuel costs increasing in the future, while electricity costs may also rise, but possibly not as steeply. As more renewable energy sources enter the grid, charging an electric car will also become greener. The IONIQ 5 has a feature called ‘Vehicle 2 Load,’ which enables current flow from the car to the house as well in case of a blackout.
Charging apps, energy efficiency
There are some not-so-pleasant bits of living with this car. When Hyundai invited me to Jaipur to drive the new Exter, I thought it would be a good idea to take the IONIQ 5. I charged the car fully but before I could head out, I had to make a very energy-draining run to pick up my son from his school in intense traffic. No big deal, I thought. I still had 94 percent charge and over 500 kilometres of range. It was enough to travel 280 kilometers to Jaipur from New Delhi via the new Faridabad Bypass and Delhi-Mumbai Expressway.
Long story short, I barely made it and ended up with just seven percent charge before I had to do an emergency ‘splash and dash’ at a Tata Power DC charger at the Devi Ratn hotel in Jaipur. I partly blame myself for it. Maybe I was gunning the car a bit on silky-smooth Expressways. Electric cars with advanced regeneration systems like the IONIQ 5 are not at all efficient on expressways like they are on crowded roads where you need to brake often. Energy efficiency dropped to just 4 kilometres per unit.
Moreover, I noticed at a halt on the expressway that IndianOil has installed a 60kW Direct Current (DC) fast charger, but it was not operational yet. There was another charging service provider called Voltic, and there lies the rub. Each charging service provider needs you to install their app and pre-load money to charge a vehicle. When buying power commercially, you have to pay 18 per cent GST, and your dues to the government are deducted first. It means that if you load Rs 1,000 on a charging app you only get Rs 820 to use. Having multiple apps could mean large sums of money locked up.
Anyway, I made it to the hotel. The next morning, I took the car to charge at a Tata Power 30kW DC charger at the Taj Amer hotel, which sadly refused to work at the advertised speed and only charged the car at a pitiful 5kW. Not wanting to spend 10 hours charging the car, I went back to the charger I’d used the previous evening. I juiced up the car there while I completed my drive with the Exter. I was grateful to have a support vehicle.
Cost of charging
Commercial power is not cheap. Including GST, it costs Rs 25 per unit, which is three times more expensive than charging at home. This throws all the math I did earlier out of the window. Sure, commercial operators can claim a GST refund, but private users cannot. Another automotive journalist who drove a Tucson on the same expressway got over 18 kilometre per litre of diesel without exceeding speed limits.
So, what lessons have I learned while doing this medium-term review? Electric vehicles’ efficiency is off-the-chart inside cities, and they do not add to immediate urban pollution. Charging at home is really cool and makes EVs economical to run, especially for urban use, where they break even compared to similar ICE vehicles. However, on the highway, do extensive research before setting out. Drive slower than you would like to, although I think it is pointless to drive at 100 on a 120 kph limit expressway.
Then again, I am extremely sure that things can only get better from here onwards. And truth be told, I really, really like the IONIQ 5.
@kushanmitra is an automotive journalist based in New Delhi. Views are personal.
(Edited by Ratan Priya)