Electric Cars

Hyundai Kona Electric aims for nationwide sales but starts with narrow focus

When will it reach all 50 states? That's a question currently lacking an answer.

Hyundai

The 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric will go on sale in 2019, but if you're holding out for one and you don't live in an EV-friendly corner of the country, you might be left waiting for a while.

The Hyundai Kona Electric will be limited to select markets in the first phases of its introduction. It will be available first in California, followed by, as Hyundai so cryptically notes in a press release, "ZEV-focused states in the western and northeastern regions of the US market." Hyundai offers no specifics in its press release beyond that.

Mike O'Brien, Hyundai's vice president for product planning, offered a little more explanation on the Kona Electric's preview drive earlier this month. O'Brien said sales will be limited to so-called "ZEV" (zero-emission vehicle) states at first. These states require automakers to produce zero-emissions vehicles alongside their traditional offerings.

It might be quite some time before you see a Kona Electric rolling down your main drag, especially if you live in flyover territory.

Hyundai

Thus far, nine states have adopted California's ZEV policy: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. This policy helped create what is known as the "compliance car," or a car sold only in specific markets to ensure adherence to the ZEV policy. Vehicles like the Honda Fit EV, Ford Focus Electric and Kia Soul EV were introduced in certain states for this reason. So, these will be the states where the Kona Electric will be sold first.

"Our goal is to launch in several states, but we're not sure we're going to be able to do that right away," O'Brien said during the Kona's drive program. All Kona Electric models will be built in South Korea, and high demand out of the gate will lead to supply constraints in some markets, including the US. Thus, Hyundai is focusing the early stages of the car's launch on the markets that will have the best potential for sales. The ZEV-state launch will continue for an indefinite period.

This makes the Kona Electric's launch similar to the Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Bolt EV was only offered in California and Oregon when it launched in late 2016, expanding to additional ZEV states in early 2017 before launching nationwide in August 2017, a month ahead of schedule. However, the Bolt EV's sole production facility was located in Michigan. Hopefully, Hyundai's Kona Electric launch won't take too long, considering its very promising (and Bolt EV-beating) range.

2019 Hyundai Kona Electric: Check out our first drive of Hyundai's long-range electric crossover.

Kia Niro EV: Hyundai's sister company plans to use Hyundai's battery tech to its own advantage.