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Is Hyundai Quietly Becoming the Next Tesla With Their Electric Vehicles?

In my expert opinion as an electric vehicle analyst, Hyundai does appear to be evolving into a formidable rival to Tesla in the EV space. While they may not fully dethrone Tesla, Hyundai‘s rapid technology development and expanding EV lineup put them on the path to be the next major force in electrified transportation.

Hyundai has quietly been building the capability to compete with Tesla for years – well before the Tesla brand dominated public perception of EVs. Let‘s look at the histories of both companies for context.

The History Behind Hyundai and Tesla‘s EV Development

Tesla obviously ignited today‘s EV revolution when it released the game-changing Roadster in 2008. With 245 miles of range and a 125 mph top speed, this electric sports car had specs unheard of at the time. Tesla soon came to define perceptions of EVs going mainstream.

However, Hyundai has been innovating in EV technology since long before Tesla existed. The company first revealed an electric concept sedan back in 1991. While range was limited, it proved Hyundai‘s interest in battery-electric drivetrains.

Throughout the 90s, Hyundai continued developing EVs, even showcasing a model capable of 87 mph and over 240 miles of range. Clearly, they were advancing EV tech years before Tesla was founded in 2003.

Once Tesla proved the viability of long-range electric vehicles, Hyundai pivoted to perfecting hybrid drivetrains in the 2000s. By the time they formed the Ioniq EV sub-brand in 2016, Hyundai had over 25 years of electric powertrain experience.

So while Tesla sparked the mass transition to EVs, Hyundai had been pioneering the foundational technology for decades prior. This gave them an invaluable head start optimizing EVs for mass production and consumer adoption.

Now, Hyundai is leveraging this extensive expertise to launch new EVs with the quality, performance, and value needed to compete head-to-head with Tesla.

Hyundai EV Sales Versus Tesla in 2022

To assess Hyundai‘s position in the EV race, we need to look at sales numbers.

In the first half of 2022, Tesla delivered over 564,000 vehicles globally. The Model 3 and Model Y made up the vast majority of sales, at over 429,000 units combined.

For Hyundai, the Ioniq 5 has led EV sales. In the US in 2022 so far, Hyundai has sold around 17,000 Ioniq 5 crossovers. In Europe, the first half of 2022 saw almost 25,000 Ioniq 5 deliveries.

So Tesla still has a wide sales lead for now. But the Ioniq 5 just launched in 2021, and combing Ioniq 5 sales and other Hyundai EVs indicates strong momentum building in Hyundai EV adoption. As more models like the Ioniq 6 launch, Hyundai could rapidly gain ground on Tesla‘s sales numbers.

In fact, some analysts predict that by 2025, Hyundai-Kia will become the #2 EV maker globally after Tesla, selling over 500,000 EVs per year. With China‘s EV startups also rising quickly, Tesla‘s domination of sales appears set to end within the next few years.

Comparing Hyundai and Tesla‘s Leading EV Models

To see how Hyundai‘s EVs stack up against Tesla‘s, let‘s compare the Ioniq 5 and Model 3 specs:

Specs Hyundai Ioniq 5 Tesla Model 3
Range 299 miles 272 miles
0-60 mph 5.1 seconds 5.8 seconds
Top Speed 115 mph 140 mph
Maximum Charging Speed 232 kW 250 kW
EPA Energy Efficiency 114 MPGe 132 MPGe
Cargo Space 27.7 cu ft 15 cu ft
Base Price $43,650 $46,990

On paper, Hyundai‘s Ioniq 5 can go toe-to-toe with the Tesla Model 3 in most key categories. In some aspects like cargo room, it even edges out the Model 3.

Upcoming Hyundai EVs like the Ioniq 6 sedan promise to offer even more competitive range and performance versus Tesla offerings. Hyundai appears ready to match Tesla across EV product lines.

Hyundai‘s Electric Platforms and Technology

A key part of Hyundai‘s EV strategy is its development of dedicated EV platforms like E-GMP (Electric Global Modular Platform). This architecture incorporates advances like:

  • An 800V electrical system enabling ultra-fast charging up to 232 kW
  • Integrated drive units housing the motor, transmission, and inverter for efficiency
  • Vehicle-to-load (V2L) technology that can power external devices
  • Support for bi-directional charging not currently offered by Tesla

E-GMP debuted on the Ioniq 5 and will underpin future Hyundais like the Ioniq 6. This flexible platform gives Hyundai an advanced EV skeleton to build upon.

Hyundai also is innovating with battery design and chemistries. They have partnered with battery firms like SK Innovation to develop denser NCM and NMCA cells. A major new $5.5 billion EV plant in Georgia will produce advanced battery packs for Hyundai‘s American-made EVs.

Meanwhile, Tesla continues relying on its own in-house technology and production. While Tesla boasts innovations like silicon anode cells, Hyundai‘s strategic partnerships give it more supply chain flexibility in the long run.

Hyundai‘s Global Manufacturing Presence

A key aspect of competing with Tesla is the ability to manufacture EVs at scale. This comes down to who has more manufacturing capacity.

Tesla produced over 930,000 EVs in 2021 globally. Their massive factory in Shanghai, China, accounted for over 650,000 of these vehicles alone. But Tesla still relies on this single Chinese facility to export significant volume.

Conversely, Hyundai and Kia operate 12 major manufacturing plants between Asia, Europe, and North America. These facilities have the tooling and lines needed to rapidly scale EV production regionally rather than rely on exports.

With supply chains still strained, Hyundai‘s diversified production system is an advantage over Tesla. It gives them geographic flexibility to build and sell EVs across more local markets efficiently.

As U.S. and European governments implement stricter local production requirements on EV incentives, Hyundai‘s American and European factories also give them an edge accessing subsidies Tesla may not qualify for.

Can Hyundai Beat Tesla at Their Own Game?

Tesla has proven masterful at fueling consumer enthusiasm via viral marketing and tech-focused branding. But Hyundai is demonstrating similar savvy reaching new demographics through strategic partnerships.

The best example is Hyundai‘s tie-up with luxury American furniture brand RH to market the new Ioniq 6. Displaying the EV at RH‘s premium showrooms attracts wealthy customers who may have overlooked the Hyundai brand previously.

Hyundai is also targeting digital-savvy younger drivers by promoting the Ioniq 5‘s use of Amazon‘s Alexa voice assistant. Tesla has no comparable voice integration.

These marketing relationships combined with Hyundai‘s sleek EV designs convey a new image that can shake perceptions the brand is budget-focused and boring. Hyundai is playing Tesla‘s branding game and winning.

The Outlook for Tesla Versus Hyundai

Given the analysis so far, it‘s evident that Hyundai has evolved into a true competitor in the global EV space. While Tesla maintains an edge in brand appeal and technology today, that gap is rapidly narrowing.

Here are a few predictions for how the Tesla and Hyundai competition could play out:

  • Tesla‘s sales dominance will decline substantially by 2025. As Hyundai-Kia, China‘s EV makers, and legacy automakers expand their EV model ranges, Tesla‘s share of the total market will fall from today‘s over 75% to 25-30% within the next few years.

  • Hyundai will leverage its manufacturing capabilities to claim the #2 EV seller spot by 2025. With a diverse global production network already in place, Hyundai-Kia seem poised to supplant Volkswagen as the second-highest EV seller worldwide within the next three years.

  • Technology leadership will remain a toss-up between Tesla and Hyundai. Both companies have proven track records of EV innovation and are investing heavily in next-gen batteries, charging, and platforms. Leadership here may pass back and forth as new tech gets introduced.

While Tesla isn‘t in danger of total disruption yet, their free ride as the dominant force in EVs is almost certainly ending thanks to capable challengers like Hyundai. I see Hyundai cementing itself as Tesla‘s most formidable rival in the coming years.

But this increasingly competitive landscape is a big win for consumers. As more manufacturers vie for EV dominance, buyers will reap the benefits through better selection, lower prices, and the innovation that comes from these rivals pushing each other.

So while Tesla may be losing its monopoly, the golden age of EVs is just getting started. With automakers like Hyundai stepping up, the future looks bright for electric vehicle adoption worldwide.