Electric-car MPGe as important as range, Hyundai Ioniq maker suggests

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Slide from 2017 Hyundai Ioniq presentation on electric cars at Washington Auto Show, Jan 2017

Slide from 2017 Hyundai Ioniq presentation on electric cars at Washington Auto Show, Jan 2017

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Along with price, the top-line statistic cited for any battery-electric car is its rated range.

Until last month, the only electric cars that exceeded 200 miles in that metric were made by Tesla Motors.

Now, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV has a 238-mile EPA rating for range—and that's usually the leading point about the Bolt EV in discussions or coverage.

DON'T MISS: Hyundai Ioniq Electric beats Prius Prime, BMW i3 on energy efficiency

Hyundai thinks that the energy efficiency of battery-electric cars should play a much greater role in the discussion than it does today.

The company's point was made yesterday in a presentation at the Washington Auto Show, which bills itself as "The Policy Show."

Given the ongoing political transition, almost no speaker wanted to get anywhere near a definitive statement on policy, so little hard news emerged from this year's show.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq

2017 Hyundai Ioniq

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But Mike O'Brien, Hyundai vice president of corporate and digital product planning, urged shoppers and reporters alike to consider the electric car's overall energy efficiency along with range.

Sure, he said, you can add more battery to an electric car to increase its range. That boosts the cost significantly, of course, but it also reduces the car's efficiency.

Rated at 124 miles combined, the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric will meet the daily travel needs of fully 98 percent of U.S. drivers, he noted.

READ THIS: Hyundai Ioniq electric car offered on 'Ioniq Unlimited' subscription model

And 91 percent of electric-car buyers can recharge their cars at home overnight, meaning that a 124-mile range really is enough for everyday use, even in areas with cold weather.

O'Brien stressed that the Ioniq Electric is the single most energy-efficient vehicle sold in the U.S. this year, displacing both the BMW i3 (with 82 miles of range) and the Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid (25 miles of range).

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric has an EPA rating of 136 MPGe combined, beating the Prius Prime's 133 MPGe when operating in electric mode and the 124 MPGe of the most efficient version of the BMW i3.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium

2017 Toyota Prius Prime Premium

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(Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or MPGe, is a measure of how far a car can travel electrically on the same amount of energy as contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.)

The Ioniq Electric also beats the 2017 Nissan Leaf (107 miles, 112 MPGe) and, importantly for Hyundai, the 2017 Bolt EV (238 miles, 119 MPGe).

Indeed, how much electric range is "enough" to alleviate range anxiety among electric-car shoppers is a topic of hot debate—and has been for six years now.

CHECK OUT: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq preview

It now seems clear that range ratings of 62 miles (Mitsubishi i-MiEV) to 107 miles (Nissan Leaf) may not be enough.

Will the 124-mile range ratings shared by the Ioniq Electric and the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf get them past that hump?

Or is 200 miles the magic number to quell those novice U.S. buyer fears of being left at the side of the road in the dark with a dead battery?

The market is likely to answer that question over the next two years. But there's a problem with focusing on energy efficiency as O'Brien proposes.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq, 2016 New York Auto Show

2017 Hyundai Ioniq, 2016 New York Auto Show

Enlarge Photo

Even the least efficient plug-in electric car sold for 2016 or 2017—the BYD e6, at 72 MPGe—uses energy more efficiently than every single vehicle of any kind on the market with a gasoline or diesel engine.

And the difference in efficiency between the Ioniq Electric at 136 MPGe and the Chevy Bolt EV at 119 MPGe is only 14 percent, or arguably within the margin of error for driving style.

Will shoppers and buyers start to compare efficiencies among electric cars? The market will likely tell us that, too.

The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Ioniq Hybrid models will be available at dealers this spring; the plug-in hybrid version will follow in the third quarter.

The Washington Auto Show and two automotive journalist professional societies collectively provided train fare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person report.

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