The 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 electric sedan made news this week not just for its 361-mile range, but for being the most efficient electric car alongside a luxury car that costs nearly twice the price.
Hyundai says the most efficient version of the new Ioniq 6 earns an EPA-rated 140 MPGe combined, same as the most accessible version of the $90,000 Lucid Air Pure sedan. That miles per gallon equivalent translates to 4.2 miles per kwh (rounded to the tenth) used by either electric car—and that makes these two (and the Lucid Air Touring) the most efficient cars on sale now.
It’s a bellwether for Hyundai’s second mass-produced electric car, and a promising follow-up to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 that won The Car Connection Best Electric Car To Buy 2023, among many other industry awards.
Built with the same chassis, motors, and 77.4-kwh battery pack as the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5, the Ioniq 6 sedan and its arcing roofline were designed for aerodynamic efficiency, much like the Mercedes EQE and EQS electric sedans, for half the price.
Electric cars are often measured by range, or the distance they can travel on a full battery charge. The excellent Ioniq 5 has an EPA-estimated 303 miles of range with a single-motor rear-wheel-drive setup. The same setup in the Ioniq 6 is good for 361 miles, just eking ahead of the Tesla Model 3 Long Range’s 358-mile range.
The Tesla Model S (405 miles) joins the Lucid Air Pure (410 miles) and Lucid Air Touring (425 miles) in the 400-mile club (and six-figure club), while the Lucid Air Grand Touring and its big 112-kwh battery pack and bigger $139,500 price has a 516-mile range.
That’s more than most gas cars. But is it enough? Too much? Or is efficiency the better measure of an electric car, same as it is in gas cars? The government uses tax breaks to incentivize the purchase of electric cars to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, more sustainable form of mass transportation, so how much energy used should be as valid in gas cars as in electric cars.
Fine, but what’s MPGe?
The EPA has been rating the efficiency of gas cars on their window stickers since the mid-1970s, and mpg is as ubiquitous and understood a measurement as miles per hour. The EPA’s equivalent measure of how much energy is used in an electric car, the MPGe, is less relevant to drivers. Introduced in 2010 to address efficiency in alternatively fuel vehicles, it assumes a gallon of pump gasoline is the energy equivalent to 33.7 kwh. That might be second nature to a physicist or engineer, but it’s an apples to oranges comparison for nearly everyone else.
A better metric is how many miles are traveled on a unit of energy, or miles per kwh. It measures EVs against EVs, and is readable on instrument clusters on electric cars same as mpg readings on gas cars, so you know how driving temperaments, road conditions, vehicle load, and weather affect range. It helps calculate cost of a charge, how much charge you’ll need, and other everyday scenarios beyond the scope of the EPA equivalency.
The sweet spot for efficiency in an electric car is about 3.0 miles per kwh. Heavier vehicles on larger wheels are the most inefficient. The GMC Hummer EV pickup lives up to its namesake with an inefficient rating of 1.5 miles per kwh; the 2023 Ford F-150 Lightning has a 2.0-mile rating, while the Rivian R1T lifestyle truck gets 2.1 miles per kwh. No surprise, trucks are inefficient. Battery packs may boost range, but they also bog down a vehicle with weight, thereby capping their efficiency.
The biggest difference maker for efficiencies across the same car line comes down to wheel and tire sizes, as well as dual motors that require more energy than single-motor drive units. The 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 SE with RWD and 18-inch wheels has a 361-mile range, and 4.2 miles per kwh, while an SEL or Limited RWD with 20-inch wheels drops down to 305 miles, and 3.5 mi/kwh. The SE AWD has a 316-mile range, 3.6 mi/kwh, whereas the SEL or Limited AWD with 20-inch wheels drops down to 270 miles, 3.1 mi/kwh. SEL and Limited models have more features and weigh more, as well as have larger wheels and tires.
In any case, they are very efficient. And the old gas maxim remains true for electric cars today: Your mileage may vary.
Here’s a snapshot of the other most efficient electric vehicles, according to the EPA.
2023 Tesla Model 3 RWD: 272 miles of range, 3.9 miles per kwh
2023 Lucid Air Grand Tourin AWD, with 19-inch wheels: 516 miles, 3.9 mi/kwh
2023 Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD: 358 miles, 3.9 mi/kwh
2023 Tesla Model Y AWD: 279 miles, 3.7 mi/kwh
2023 Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD: 330 miles, 3.6 mi/kwh
2023 Lucid Air Grand Touring AWD (469 miles), Pure AWD (384 miles), Touring AWD with 20- or 21-inch wheels (384 miles): 3.6 mi/kwh
2023 Chevrolet Bolt (259 miles), 2023 Hyundai Kona Electric (258 miles), 2023 Tesla Model S (405 miles): 3.6 mi/kwh
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