The Ioniq 6 Is an Aerodynamic Solution to the EV Battery Problem
Sleekness to the rescue.
If there’s one thing Americans want from an electric vehicle, it’s range. Consumers regularly cite the distance an EV can travel before recharging as one of their biggest hang-ups about the transition away from gas cars. And yet longer range EVs come at an environmental cost, thanks to bigger batteries. Some have surveyed this sad situation and concluded that Americans need to settle for less range.
But what if we didn’t have to settle? As the Hyundai Ioniq 6 shows, it’s possible to go really far on an average battery.
Electric vehicles in the United States have become dominated by crossovers and SUVs, just like their gas-powered counterparts. These mega-sized, mega-powered, luxury behemoths are fast and technically impressive, and they have certainly helped entice people to embrace electrification. But they can seem incredibly silly when viewed through the lens of why we’re going electric in the first place.
Now, the Ioniq 6’s isn’t necessarily immune to that critique. Like its sister model, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the Hyundai’s styling department did a good job disguising the vehicle’s physical girth, because the Ioniq 6 isn’t really all that small. Park the Ioniq 6 next to any traditional sedan or hatchback from not that long ago, like say, a Toyota Prius, and the Ioniq 6 towers over it. The Ioniq 6’s sedan body may stand out in the sea of electrified crossovers and SUVs, but its 4,200-pound as-tested curb weight puts it in the same ballpark as them.
However, we can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good, and the Ioniq 6 is very, very good. A week with the Ioniq 6 showed me exactly how good it really is.
The 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 uses a common vehicle architecture, called E-GMP, shared with sister brands Genesis and Kia. This purpose-built, electric-only architecture is found under the Kia EV6, Genesis GV60, and SUV (or hatchback, depending on who you ask) Hyundai Ioniq 5. It will form the basis of many other Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis EVs in the near future, like the Kia EV9. The platform is modular, allowing for a bevy of electric motor outputs, battery sizes, and wheelbase lengths to accommodate varying types of vehicles. But, the Ioniq 6 stands out from its SUV-shaped mechanical cousins by having the best battery-to-range ratio of them all, partially because of its slippery sedan shape.
In the SE Long Range, single-motor rear-wheel-drive, with 18-inch wheels with aero wheel covers, the Ioniq 6 is rated for 361 miles of range. This all comes from a relatively svelte 77.4 kWh (74 usable) battery – that’s about 60 miles more than the Ioniq 5 in similar specifications with the same sized battery. In fact, the Ioniq 6 is the most efficient vehicle on sale in the U.S., edging out the Lucid Air Grand Touring.
The Ioniq 6 accomplishes this feat by focusing hard on aerodynamics. With a drag coefficient of 0.21, the Ioniq 6 is one of the most aerodynamic cars in the world; its low drag shape means it uses a lot less energy to cut through the air. Even in Hyundai’s own stable, the boxy Ioniq 5 with its 0.29 drag coefficient can only manage 303 miles of range with the same motor and battery as the Ioniq 6.
Now, manufacturers may advertise all sorts of numbers, but achieving them in real-world driving, especially freeway driving, isn’t always that easy. To get the 361-mile range that Hyundai advertises on the Ioniq 6, I would need to average 4.87 miles per kilowatt hour. That is a very tall order. Most of the EVs I’ve driven have struggled to break the 4-mile-per-kilowatt-hour barrier, including the supposedly hyper-efficient Lucid Air.
But the Ioniq 6’s real-world efficiency impressed me. Even with the air conditioning on, in 85 to 90-degree weather, the Ioniq 6 could touch as high as 6 miles per kilowatt hour under stop-and-go short trips. Under one long journey, averaging 70 MPH with the air conditioning set to 72 degrees, the Ioniq 6 averaged 4.6 miles per kWh. At that rate, the Ioniq 6 was on track to travel 340 miles on a full charge, or about 94% of the Ioniq 6’s claimed range – all done on the freeway. These efficiency numbers mean the Ioniq 6 could easily do a 5-hour freeway drive, without stopping. From my perspective, Hyundai has succeeded in creating an EV that has compromised little to nothing compared to a gas-powered vehicle.
That strong on-road, real-world efficiency begs the question: What if the Ioniq 6 was smaller and lighter? Could we get the same range with an even smaller battery? Or, at the very least, what if more automakers adopted the Ioniq 6’s streamlined ethos? Instead of big mega SUVs that cost six figures and need 200 kWh to go 450 miles, we’d have sleek sedans and hatchbacks that go plenty far on a battery that’s a third of the size or less.
The Ioniq 6 may not be perfect, but it does suggest that one day, we might be able to drive more sustainably — while still going super far.