Hyundai cast a quiet vote last week in favor of making electric vehicles mainstream products.
In unveiling its BlueOn electric vehicle in South Korea, Hyundai noted that it had two recharging capabilities: 220-volt household power and 380-volt industrial-strength power.
The BlueOn, planned for limited production in 2012, has a range of about 85 miles. A 220-volt charge takes six hours, Hyundai said. With 380 volts, the battery can be recharged to 80 percent of capacity in 25 minutes.
And therein lies a critical issue for the nascent EV business: whether to push for a widespread quick-charge network.
Companies launching the first EVs seem to be shying away from the possibility, saying the EVs will function mainly as limited-range city cars.
Maybe that's the only realistic way to get an EV out there today. But in the long run, it limits EVs to a sliver of the market -- and a marginal impact on emissions and petroleum use.
Oliver Hazimeh, leader of the global e-mobility practice at the consulting firm PRTM, says talk of fast-charging (aka Level 3 charging) faded noticeably in the past year. It's true that the infrastructure challenge is formidable. But Hazimeh cautions that after the first wave of EVs are sold to early-adopters, the industry will need to move to fast charging.
Says Hazimeh: "I don't think in the long term you can limit the market to just these niche applications."