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This New Charging Issue Impacts Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV Owners

A potentially expensive anomaly more than doubles the cost of charging on Electrify America for Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV drivers.

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The second generation of electric vehicles has seen some compelling long-range options come to market, the latest of which are the Kia Niro EV and the Hyundai Kona Electric. The two South Korean automakers have deep roots together dating back more than 20 years, which is why these two new EVs are distinct models but have very similar capabilities.

One of those capabilities is a maximum DC fast charging rate of around 75kW, which is where the problems begin for owners in North America who want to use the rapidly expanding Electrify America network.

Kona Electric and Niro EV Charging Issue on Electrify America

The issue emerged after Electrify America announced a new pricing structure earlier this month.

Replacing the previous flat rate of 35 cents per minute and a $1 session fee, the new pricing puts vehicles into different power tiers based on the maximum charge rate requested by the EV.

The per minute rate varies slightly by state, but here’s how it looks in my home state of Massachusetts:

Power level (tier 1): Up to 75kW
Cost: 21 cents per minute

Power level (tier 2): Up to 125kW
Cost: 58 cents per minute

Power level (tier 3): Up to 350kW
Cost: 89 cents per minute

As you can see, the cut-off between the first and second tier of pricing is right on the line for the maximum charge rate of the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV. As a result, these models can trigger the higher cost of tier 2 if they hit 76kW. However, owners receive almost none of the benefit of that higher tier as the car is barely in the higher power tier and only briefly achieves that rate.

Note that the prices above are for users on Electrify America’s no-fee Pass membership, which also comes with a $1 session fee attached. There are cheaper per minute rates and no session fee on the Pass+ plan, but that costs $4 per month and the pricing tiers are still in place. On either plan, the same issue of bouncing between tiers and paying more for the privilege applies.

For owners of most existing non-Tesla EV models, this isn't an issue as the cars can't reach the new tier. As I wrote last week, for example, my Bolt EV's maximum charge rate is 55kW.

For owners of the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric and 2019 Kia Niro EV, however, this is a real-world problem as summer arrives and vacation driving begins.

Same Slow Rate, Double the Charging Costs

The issue has now been highlighted in real-world testing after EV YouTuber Kyle with Out of Spec Motoring took a 3,000 mile round trip in a Hyundai Kona Electric.

While that’s an impressive journey in its own right, in the video below Kyle talks about the cross-tier pricing confusion that inflated his charging costs from an estimated $40-50, to an actual cost of $83.

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The video covers other aspects of his trip but starts here at the 4:20 mark to get straight into the section about his charging with Electrify America.

Here’s a quick summary of what he says:

On the Hyundai Kona Electric’s maximum charge rate: “If the car pulls 76kW at one point, even for a brief moment, the whole charging session by minute costs more than double.”
On the variation in his Electrify America charging costs: "40% of my charging stops were tier 1, the rest fell into tier 2. This means I was charged $83, but it should be closer to $40-50. By energy costs, that's a range of 14-49 cents per kWh."
On a potential fix from the network or manufacturers: "Electrify America and Hyundai are aware of the issue and hopeful that software will fix it."

Even though this issue involves a Hyundai Kona Electric, any EV capable of straddling the 75kW charge rate so closely could be affected by this pricing switch. That puts the 2019 Kia Niro EV in the same boat, as it uses the same battery pack and platform as the 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric.

At its worst, on long trips, this is an issue that could cost drivers of these models hundreds of dollars they should not have to pay.

Although this isn't an issue that will affect Nissan EV drivers, the 2019 Nissan Leaf has problems of its own related to charging.

When Can Owners Expect a Fix?

Good EV citizen that he is, Kyle mentions in the video that he has already reached out to Hyundai about the issue. Electrify America will also be aware of the problem and Kia Niro EV owners will hope that Kia is also in conversation with them about a fix.

In theory, it should be possible to fix the issue via a software update on the Electrify America side of things.

If the charging station is able to detect the maximum rate of charge it delivers, it stands to reason that it can also extrapolate the average rate of charge and could perhaps use that as the baseline for pricing tier allocation.

As is often the case, Tesla demonstrates best practice here.

The Supercharger network slots users into upper and lower pricing tiers based on real-time charge rate, not the maximum achieved in one brief burst. In locations where the company is forced to charged by minute rather than by kWh, due to local regulations, if your vehicle is charging more slowly, you pay a lower rate.

Until either the manufacturers or Electrify America deliver a fix, this remains a potentially costly charging issue that Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV owners need to be aware of before heading out on summer road trips. We’ll keep an eye on the problem and let you know how this plays out.

See you in the next story where I am discussing how the Chevy Volt impacts Chevy Bolt EV sales in 2019.

Steve Birkett is an electric vehicle advocate at Plug & Play EV. You can follow him on Twitter at @Plugandplayev, Instagram and Youtube at Plugandplayev Channel to send him EV news tips.

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Robert Drake (not verified)    June 21, 2019 - 11:08AM

I'm so glad to see articles being written about this issue! Based on my own experiences charging a Kona with Electrify America, tier 2 pricing is charged based SOLELY on the max charge rate that Kona broadcasts to the kiosk. For example, my last EA charge never went over 65 kW (based on SoC) and yet I was still charged $0.58/min. When I called EA to report this and request a credit, they were quick to tell me that is how their system is intended to work...

Steve Birkett    June 21, 2019 - 2:19PM

In reply to by Robert Drake (not verified)

It's nuts and will only get worse as more electric Konas and Niros take to the road. Per minute charging is already considered a problem by some EV drivers, but at least the new EA pricing tried to address the issue with power tiers. We got a great rate per kWh on our Bolt EV but making someone pay for a charge rate they don't get - or barely achieve - will undo a lot of the good work they're trying to do. Hopefully Kia and Hyundai can fix it with a software update that broadcasts at most 74kW to the unit, if Electrify America refuses to do so.

David Davidson (not verified)    June 21, 2019 - 11:54PM

In reply to by Robert Drake (not verified)

I drove my Kona from Baltimore to Kansas City using mostly Electrify America stations. At every one, I was placed in the tier two pricing level even though I never exceeded 75kw, and most times my maximum draw was well below 75kw. Each time I notified Electrify America because I thought it was an error. I was not aware of this issue at the time. I start back Monday and will avoid Electrify America stations as much as possible.

Tim (not verified)    June 22, 2019 - 1:58AM

Exactly what I have been saying, I've been tweeting about this as well. I have a Kia Niro EV, and these rates are clearly an attack on Kia and Hyundai owners. Just to get to 80% charge it going to charge me a mini fortune.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    June 23, 2019 - 1:36PM

In reply to by Tim (not verified)

I doubt that they are actively targeting Hyundai EVs, but their pricing structure needs revision ASAP. I'm sure that both Hyundai and EV America don't like the bad press that comes with this kind of problem, and they will fix it quickly.

Marty Dow (not verified)    June 30, 2019 - 9:17AM

This not a charging issue with the cars, it is a pricng issue with Electrify America, and they should fix it...

Steve (not verified)    July 8, 2019 - 11:17AM

I had my first experience with EA a couple of days ago, charging my Kona at Grant's Pass. I was charged $.94 per kWh! It also took almost 27 minutes to get 20.7 kWh so charging rate was way under 75 kw average.
Talking to the EA rep on the phone was extremely frustrating, he and his supervisor didn't even acknowledge the Kona/Niro issue. Or offer a credit...
Seems as though they could fix this in the mobile app fairly easily by allowing one to remain in Tier 1. Or they could just edge up Tier 1 to 76kw.
Oh, and I had to call in just to get the charger going too. Lots of reasons to avoid EA.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    July 8, 2019 - 9:38PM

The fact that EA did not fix this issue right away is now edging me towards the belief that VW/EA is using this against the successful Hyundai/Kia BEVs. Any legitimate business would have fixed the code/pricing within a week. VW should know better than this because EA was created partially to atone for their unethical Dieselgate corporate actions.

Michael (not verified)    July 9, 2019 - 11:47AM

As a Kona owner this is an issue. but I don't think changing the charge rate of the tiers is the answer. With all the new EVs coming out there is likely to be someone at the threshold. To me the answer is simple, have the tier be selected by the user when initiating the charge. I know the argument will be that everyone will charge at tier 1 to save money, but in truth if my Kona charged at 100 Kw I would rather pay for tier 2.

David Davidson (not verified)    July 9, 2019 - 7:25PM

After I notified Electrify America for my first couple of charges, I was under the impression that they were going to adjust my bill to reflect the tier 1 pricing, but they never did. Subsequent conversations with them were futile. They told me that my Kona reports that it can accept up to 84kw even though I've never seen over 74kw. They also told me that they have no intention of adjusting their pricing in the foreseeable future. They seem determined to rip off their potential customers. I wouldn't mind paying slightly more than tier 1 to charge at my maximum rate, but not 3 times as much. Until EA corrects this, I will limit myself to their competitors, even though most of the chargers are limited to 50kw.

Michael (not verified)    July 9, 2019 - 7:55PM

That is too bad. I myself have experienced 76kw. But only once. The problem is that the only DC charger on my route from Port Angeles to Ocean Shores is the EA charger in Lacey. If my timeshare had Lvl 2 I wouldn't care as I can do the trip on a single charge but I would prefer to arrive with a higher SOC.

Steve (not verified)    July 11, 2019 - 1:09PM

I just called Walmart (whose parking lot hosts the EA chargers) and VW of America about this issue. Both were quite receptive to hearing of this issue. I don't expect much in terms of my particular experience, but I'm hoping that others will let the peripheral businesses know of this price gouging.

Deborah (not verified)    October 12, 2019 - 5:02PM

I'm about to purchase a Kona EV. It's October. Has this problem been solved? I won't be doing many long road trips, but am just curious to know about this issue. Are there other fast charging facilities without this problem? Thanks.

Steve Birkett    October 14, 2019 - 9:18PM

In reply to by Deborah (not verified)

Based on recent feedback from other Kona and Niro EV drivers, this is still happening. I'm speaking to Electrify America this week to follow up, but their disclaimer is typically that the vehicle tells the station what tier to allocate and these models are saying 75 or 76kW, which means tier 2 pricing.

As Electrify America is the only network that has different price tiers, the others don't have this issue. EVgo is either 30-35 cents per minute or a bit cheaper if you jump on the $7.99/month membership plan (with the fee used as a charging credit) ChargePoint is the only other major provider with (sort of) nationwide fast charge coverage, but their prices vary based on what the property owner decides to charge.

One way or another, we'll have an update article here on Torque News in the next week or so, pending my conversation with the network.

Avital Graves (not verified)    October 17, 2019 - 8:34AM

In reply to by Steve Birkett

This is absolutely still happening. We are on a trip from Maryland to Tennessee and plotted our route using EA chargers. At the first stop, we received a charge of 40-56 kw/min. In 22 minutes, the car charged 13.98kW for which we paid $10.50. The machine charged us at the 75+ kW tier (.48/min as opposed to .15/kw for the lower tier). We called to complain that we were overcharged but basically got nowhere. They also claimed that our car made a "handshake" at 84kW, justifying the higher tier charge even though we never got anywhere close to that. To further the poor customer service, the machine had a message saying It was going through an update which was reducing charging speeds. The supervisor we spoke with refused to even acknowledge that their machine was limiting its own charging capability. We filed for a refund but I doubt we will see a penny back. And because we didn't know about this issue, we planned our whole route on EA's network, so now we are stuck using them twice more during the trip down. We will find another route going back.

Steve Jones (not verified)    October 17, 2019 - 2:26PM

In reply to by Deborah (not verified)

Oh yes, still going on with no relief in sight. Two things that moderate the gouge:
1. Purchase the monthly membership if you're going on a trip; it lowers the Tier 2 pricing and eliminates the $1 per session charge. Cancel before the auto-charge for the next month.
2. Don't ever put in a full charge if you can help it. Stop the charge when it falls below 70kw. to avoid the real pain of paying the higher price for a slower charge by the minute!

Don't expect either EA or Hyundai to be much help, but it's good to express dissatisfaction to both companies.

Tim (not verified)    October 18, 2019 - 3:43AM

How do we know what these cars are really communicating with these units, are we just suppose to take their word??? These are the sad hats that fooled the world with their diesel engines. Just because the guy on the phone says it said it could except 84kW is BS. You didnt see it, and you didnt have a ev obd to verify. Maybe we should be filing cases with the Better Business Bureau. Maybe there is a law suite here waiting to happen.

Tim (not verified)    October 18, 2019 - 6:41PM

How do we know what these cars are really communicating with these units, are we just suppose to take their word??? These are the sad hats that fooled the world with their diesel engines. Maybe we should be filing cases with the Better Business Bureau. Maybe there is a law suite here waiting to happen.

Brett (not verified)    December 18, 2019 - 7:27PM

I want to keep this going that it's an issue. Kia Niro here and it "handshake" at 84kw. Steady charge at about 56kw and lower as it approached 80%. Figured the tier 2 price was a mix up and EA customer service didn't care. We will be filing this as fraudulent. As well as avoiding EA completely.

Heller Gregory (not verified)    January 2, 2020 - 9:31PM

I just bought a Kona a few weeks ago & spent an hour at the outlets in Livermore, CA not realizing it was a super charger. Imagine my surprise when I came back to a $70 bill!!! I called, thinking the decimal must be off?? They were very "empathetic" (BS) ...really, it was an outrageous sum!! Wouldn't budge on the price, I'm going to file a BBB complaint, I was pissed! Reading this they obviously know it's a problem, they said I used the power so the money was theirs. I felt totally robbed, and they wanted me to sign up to get 20% off?? I hope they go out of business...FAST!!

James (not verified)    January 5, 2020 - 3:39AM

We definitely need a class action filed against them. Can’t imagine that will look good for a VW funded company. Yet again screwing the public.

Bert Hogendoorn (not verified)    January 14, 2020 - 6:09PM

This issue will also be for the 2020 Kia Soul EV which I just purchased in Canada, more of there are arriving in 2021. 64KW battery pack and 77KW max charge rate (for about 10-15 minutes). I hope they resolve this issue before my scheduled Las Vegas run a little later this year!

Bert Hogendoorn (not verified)    January 14, 2020 - 7:08PM

This issue will also be for the 2020 Kia Soul EV which I just purchased in Canada, more of there are arriving in 2021. 64KW battery pack and 77KW max charge rate (for about 10-15 minutes). I hope they resolve this issue before my scheduled Las Vegas run a little later this year!