In a surprising move, a team in New Zealand has transformed a Hyundai Kona EV into a zero-emission rally car that rivals combustion vehicles in power and performance. The unique build was showcased at the 2023 Adelaide Motorsport Festival in Australia, revealing its impressive abilities and WRC vibes.
The project, which began in 2019, is still in its early stages of development. However, rally driver and New Zealand’s multi-champion, Hayden Paddon, was able to display the vehicle’s prowess on the track and share some specifications in a video presentation.
The fastest Hyundai Kona on the planet features three electric motors that produce a combined 805 horsepower (600 kW / 816 PS). In rally-spec, it boasts a slightly detuned dual-motor setup that delivers 537 horsepower (400 kW / 544 PS), enough to leave combustion rivals behind. The EV’s power is transmitted to all wheels through a set of transmissions (one on each axle). Currently equipped with a 23 kWh prototype battery, it will soon be upgraded to a larger 54 kWh unit, providing it with a range that ensures it makes it to the end of the rally stages.
While the model is based on a production Hyundai Kona EV, the mechanicals and internals have been modified to enhance its performance. With its low center of gravity and the ability to adjust power delivery between the two axles, Paddon described it as one of the best rally cars he’s ever driven on gravel. However, he noted that the lack of noise detracts from some of the excitement when compared to combustion vehicles.
To ensure that the car remains firmly on the road, the body kit was designed in collaboration with a New Zealand university to produce sufficient downforce while preserving energy. The kit includes wide fender extensions with integrated vents, deeper bumpers, sizeable canards, bonnet scoops, an open grille, a large rear wing, and a diffuser. The rest of the bodywork is borrowed from the stock Kona EV and wrapped in a full racing livery.
The EV has already competed in five hillclimb and sprint events, winning four of them against combustion-engined vehicles. The next goal is a proper rally. Paddon and his team are confident that we will soon see more rally cars with fully electric powertrains, heralding a new era of motorsports.
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