The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, with a phenomenal 58 mpg EPA combined rating and the promise of a perkier driving experience than the Toyota Prius, is poised to capture the hearts of eco-frugalistas. Yet the path to success for the Ioniq Electric is definitely different. To woo savvy younger urban drivers who want to go electric but might not be convinced of the merits of car ownership, Hyundai has wisely explored some new avenues.
The company has revealed two such approaches: detailing an innovative partnership with the car-sharing company WaiveCar, allowing you to potentially make short local trips for free; and teasing a subscription model based around a single monthly payment that covers nearly all aspects of ownership.
It’s far from other brand-related efforts such as ReachNow, Maven, or Car2Go. The catches—of course there are catches—is that you have to be okay with being a rolling billboard, and you can’t go very far. WaiveCar’s business model is advertising-supported, so its vehicles include wraps and signs. That could be embarrassing—but if you don’t care, it could save you a lot of money on local errands. WaiveCar’s fleet is entirely stocked with all-electric vehicles. It currently operates only in Santa Monica, California, and while drivers have to return the vehicles to a well-defined area in that city, they’re allowed to drive the vehicles within a 20-mile radius of there—which does include much of Los Angeles.
With the WaiveCar app, you locate a car near you, then reserve it. You have 15 minutes to get to the car and unlock it via the WaiveCar app. Drop-offs are done by following an in-dash map to the company’s home base or a public charging station (if it has less than a 25 percent charge), or otherwise any legal parking spot or three-hour meter spot. Under the program, drivers can check out an Ionic Electric free of charge for two hours at a time. After that, the cost is $5.99 an hour.
Essentially the arrangement lets Hyundai reach new potential customers—and perhaps introduce them to electric vehicles—while getting the word out about the Ioniq model line to the public. Hyundai spokesman Miles Johnson said that the company is considering scenarios that would omit the advertising wrap for other products and focus on promoting the car. The Ioniq Electric is powered solely by an electric motor, making 120 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque, via a 28-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack. Although Hyundai has plans to upgrade this model’s range in subsequent model years, the 2017 model will have an EPA-rated 124-mile range.
According to Mark Dipko, Hyundai’s director of advanced corporate product planning, the company plans to place 25 vehicles with WaiveCar in the first quarter of 2017, working up to an L.A. fleet of 150 by midyear. Hyundai will place 400 cars total by the end of 2017, including adding four other U.S. metro markets that are part of a WaiveCar expansion.
Hyundai also will offer the Ioniq Electric in California under a special subscription-like installment plan called Ioniq Unlimited. With it, a single monthly payment will include unlimited mileage and scheduled maintenance, with no down payment. Although Hyundai uses the word “buying” to describe the plan, it is in effect a lease.
Dipko detailed a standout feature of the plan: Hyundai will likely include some public charging (the network has yet to be finalized) as part of the plan, and it will have a mechanism for reimbursing subscribers for the electricity they use, based on the local-specific cost of energy, per kWh (although it won’t reimburse off-network charger use). He said that while personal-use mileage is indeed unlimited, the company will include language that won’t allow vehicles on the plan to be used for ride-hailing services (such as Uber) or as fleet vehicles.
The company plans to offer the Unlimited plan only in California—where 65 percent of the EV’s sales are expected to be. In other states a conventional lease will be offered. Such an approach could also help Hyundai control the resale-value plunge that has affected (non-Tesla) used electric vehicles. The Ioniq Electric starts reaching dealerships late in the year, and we expect more details about Ioniq Unlimited by early next year.