2015 Kia Soul EV+

The Kia Soul EV—as in “electric vehicle”—takes the already well-done Soul and provides a slightly different spin on it.

The Kia Soul EV—as in “electric vehicle”—takes the already well-done Soul and provides a slightly different spin on it.

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The difference is not simply the fact that it has an AC synchronous electric motor that produces an equivalent 109-hp under the hood.

One pleasant difference is in the cabin, where there is the extensive use of bio-based plastics. Such things as the door panels, headliner, seat trim, and more—in all, 19 different parts—are made with plastics derived from cellulose and sugar cane. The result is an overall freshness and modernity. This may be a car that is “green” because it is a zero-emission vehicle, but it is not “green” in the sense that it is “frugal” in a way that makes the interior about as exciting as a bowl of oatmeal. Quite the contrary. It has all of amenities that you’d expect—maybe some that you don’t (e.g., heated seats). Overall, I like it better than the versions with the 1.6- or 2.0-liter internal combustion engine.

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The interior, that is.

There is an 8-inch capacitive touch screen display that provides an array of functions, one of which is navigation that provides a list of where one can get the 27-kWh air-cooled, 200-Watt-hour/kg lithium ion polymer battery, which is located under the floor so it is not truncating storage space, charged.

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Amusingly enough, however, while driving along it indicated a charging station that happened to be. . .at a Nissan dealership. Probably not where you want to go with your Kia.

The charging procedure is straight-forward. You release the lid on the charger ports that’s located in the center of the grille. There are two charging ports, a SAE J1772 port for Level 1 and Level 2 AC, and a CHAdeMO DC fast-charging port (480 V). Plug in and information as to how long it is likely to take to charge—according to Kia, “recharging times vary from 24 hours for a fully depleted battery using a standard 120-V outlet to under five hours when plugged into a 240-V outlet.  An 80-percent charge can be achieved from empty in as little as 33 minutes with a 50 kW-output DC fast charger”—is displayed on a 3.5-inch OLED screen.

And that screen may provide some surprising information.

The Soul EV has a EPA estimated range of 93 miles. That’s the combined number.

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Just as in your gasoline-fueled car, there are a lot of factors that come into play regarding the vehicle’s range. For example, as it was summer when I was driving the car, I had no need to activate the aforementioned heated seats. The air conditioning is another story.

And when I turned the air conditioning on, I saw that the mileage range immediately dropped by two miles.

While on a theoretical basis I am completely in favor of things like EVs, I must admit that the whole time I had the car I was thinking about the amount of juice in the battery.

When you think about buying a car, changes are—and these chances are high, given the exceedingly small number of electric vehicles sold in the U.S.—that refueling is not something that you think about. An exception might be if you are contemplating purchase of a diesel vehicle. But absent that, you take for granted that the Shell or BP or Whatever station is seemingly everywhere so that if you think about fuel at all vis-à-vis a new car purchase, it is probably only in the context of fuel economy.

That is not the case for an EV. Not by a long shot. While 120-V plugs are certainly common, they tend to be inside of buildings, which makes them ideal for charging phones on the go but not so much for EVs. And while there is a growing number of recharging station in the parking lots of malls, colleges and office complexes, the number is still small, and those that I found in the western suburbs of Detroit were Level 2 chargers, which means 220 V. That’s better than what you have at home (with the exception of the outlets for your major appliances, and this whole thing might take us to the description of a car as an appliance in a very tangible way). But 220 V is still something that requires hours of plug-in time. If I happen to go to a charging station at a mall, plug in and then go to a movie and you drive up in need of a charge, you’re going to be out of luck. While this may not be a problem right now (I went to five different charging spots over the weekend in in all cases I had the only car there), what happens if EVs become very popular?

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Even if you use an EV for short hops around town, those short hops add up quickly, especially if you have the HVAC system activated. When your range is on the order of – miles, those runs to school and the grocery store make the range numbers fall precipitously.

And recharging an EV is not as quick and convenient as going to the Shell or BP or Whatever station.

This is the proverbial Achilles’ heel for the Soul EV and its brethren in this space, with the exception of a Tesla Model S, as it has a range of 230 miles. But then it has a starting MSRP of $70,000, so you could buy (almost) two Soul EV+s for that money (MSRP: $35,700).

Yes, I know there are statistics that indicate the average driver travels fewer than 40 miles per day, but it is the notion of not having the ability to plug in somewhere that’s concerning. At least for me.

The car itself is one thing. A good thing. But the infrastructure and the battery (i.e., recharging) are something else, entirely.

Selected specs

Motor: AC synchronous permanent magnet electric

Horsepower: 109 hp

Torque: 210 lb-ft

Transmission: One-speed gear reduction

Battery: 27 kWh lithium ion polymer

Steering: Electric power assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 101.2 in.

Length: 163 in.

Width 70.9 in.

Height: 63 in.

Passenger volume: 97.1 cu. ft.

Curb weight: 3,289 lb.

EPA estimated range: 93 miles