Hayden Paddon has told DirtFish the performance from his Hyundai Kona EV rally car has already exceeded his expectations.
The 2016 Rally Argentina winner launched the groundbreaking Kona at Hyundai New Zealand headquarters last November and is already preparing for the car’s first major overhaul following five successful test sessions.
“The performance is already ahead of where we thought it would be,” said Paddon.
“I’m just loving this whole thing – I never thought we’d be able to be running at this level and running so well straight out of the shed. The car’s amazing to drive and, because of the transmission noise, it’s actually noisier than it is sitting in the AP4 car.
“When I got into it, I was driving it like a conventional ICE [internal combustion engine] car, but the more I’m in there the more I’m refining the way I drive to suit the car. The middle to exit of the corners is fantastic, there’s so much torque.
“If anything I’d say I’m using the handbrake just a little bit more, there’s not quite the same feeling in the car not having a propshaft from the front to rear, but the whole thing is just getting more and more efficient.”
Paddon and his Queenstown-based team will take a break from testing later this month, when the car goes through its first evolution.
“Through the first tests, we’ve found some areas we want to evolve,” he added.
“We have to send some components back to Europe, basically we’ll take four weeks away and come back with the version 2.0. The areas we’re working on is things like updates for the gearbox, the steering, the cooling and driveline systems – it’s great to be in the position to be evolving the car so quickly.”
Much of the Kona’s performance testing has taken place on gravel and Paddon doesn’t see that changing in the future.
“It’s more straightforward to take the gravel car to Tarmac.
“When we’re on the gravel we’re providing more of a test for the car, generating more energy, more wheelspin. We’ve done a lot of longevity and range testing on the track at Highlands, but when it comes to performance it’s on the gravel.”
The aim is still to have the car competing by the end of this year, but Paddon says a conventional stage rally debut might have to wait until next season.
“We’ll be working with Motorsport New Zealand on the safety side of the electric, so we’re looking at events like some sprints or hillclimbs to start with.
“And, when it comes to running a rally, we have to decide what the strategy will be: do we go for quick charging or changing the battery? At the moment we’re running the baby battery, the range on this one is irrelevant, it’s just to get the car on the road and testing.
“We’re working closely with STARD on the battery and that’s coming along well. The other thing we have to sort before we start competing is the parity of the car with the competition.
“It’s all very well building this car to be as fast as possible, but you can’t just turn up at an event like that.
“We will work to do some back-to-back testing with the AP4 and wind [the Kona EV] back in terms of acceleration and performance until it’s the same as the AP4 or R5 cars.
“It’s easy to do and the benefit there is that when we wind it back in terms of performance, that’s only going to help us with the battery capacity.”