Just 18 months after starting work on the project, Hayden Paddon has launched his all-electric Hyundai Kona in Auckland.
The car, revealed by Paddon Rallysport (PRG) at Hyundai Motors New Zealand on Wednesday morning local time, breaks new ground as one of the first electric rally cars in the world.
Paddon said: “I’m incredibly proud of our team who have put their heart and soul into this car. There is a little bit of all of us in it and it wouldn’t be possible without the amazing team we have. So, a massive thank you from the bottom of my heart for them to believe in me and trust me to make our vision a reality.”
Capable of delivering more than 800kW, the car will now enter an eight-month test period before starting its first full-length rally in the second half of 2021. It’s that capacity to contest a full-length event that sets Paddon’s project apart from short-format projects like Extreme E.
80% of the Kona EV has been designed in-house at the PRG facility close to Queenstown, with the chassis design, engineering, aerodynamics, suspension, steering, cooling, and electrics all being completed by Paddon’s team.
Stohl Advanced Research and Development (STARD), which is also responsible for developing cars for the World Rallycross Championship’s Projekt E support category, contributed as a technical partner, providing guidance and advice.
The former Rally Argentina winner added that the Kona EV would run with a power output comparable to its petrol-engined rivals when it arrives on the stages.
He said: “The car is faster on paper than an ICE (internal combustion engine) car, has better weight distribution, and is more reliable as there are fewer moving parts and the potential with the technology, electronics, and design of the car is endless.
“It’s simply a new era of rallying that has new limits.
“The EV package is capable of over 800kW, but we have focused on building this car to have comparable power to a current ICE rally car and aim for it to be winning rallies against normal ICE competition from 2022.
“A lot of work needs to happen between now and then and we are confident that EV technology is going to work in a normal rally environment.”
Paddon is working closely with motorsport bodies to integrate EV technology into the sporting regulations for conventional rallies.
There are numerous considerations such as how EV cars are serviced between rally stages, regulations on changing battery packs, charging systems, vehicle weight, and chassis structure, and the safety of the driver and co-driver and rally marshals during competition and in the event of a crash.
Paddon added: “Finding the way to move forward with EV technology is something we identify as being very important for the future of our sport, not only in New Zealand but globally.
“If the sport doesn’t respond, it will be left behind commercially and technologically compared to other motorsports.”
The Kona EV includes a contemporary aero package, similar suspension travel, but weighs in close to 200kg heavier at 1400kg.
With the launch complete, Paddon will now focus on driving the car he and his team has been dreaming up and developing since March last year.
“The next phase of the project is focused on performance and reliability, before we build up to a full-length rally in the second half of 2021,” Paddon said.
“Long-term, we see this as a platform from which we will further develop the cars and our team to take on the world.
“Now the work continues as we take this project to the next step as a rally winner.”
Hyundai New Zealand has long supported Paddon’s rallying and general manager Andy Sinclair said looked forward to the next step.
“This project complements our commitment to being at the forefront of innovation and championing the EV industry here in New Zealand,” said Sinclair.
“It’s been an exciting journey over the last 18 months for our team to be involved in, and to watch the Hyundai Kona EV rally car come to life.
“The first phase is finally complete, and we will enjoy this moment and watching the car make its competitive debut in coming months. We equally look forward to what’s still to come with this project.”