Understand this: if you decide you want to own an electric vehicle, it’s a serious commitment, for better or worse, to a high voltage spouse.
I spent the last seven days wedded to a 2015 Kia Soul EV (electric vehicle), a loaner in Caribbean Blue, with a chargepoint card and insurance. I already knew that great people, ideas, and automobiles have all come out of Korea. My girlfriend, for instance, was born in Korea. And the Korean Kia Motors gets a nod for offering me to tryout its EV for a week.
Let’s find out if our marriage is a success, or if I’ll be filing for a divorce. Take a look at the video for more!
When you first tell people that the car you are driving is an electric vehicle, their eyes light up. They want to know everything: What it’s like to drive it, Where do you charge it, What’s the range?
Driving the Kia Soul EV (with a sticker price of $36,625) is so quiet and peaceful it is like meditation. There are no pistons slamming against metal, which means the cabin is pure automotive Zen. You can hear an audible beeping noise outside the vehicle whenever you put it in reverse. This warns pedestrians that Buddha is backing up.
Driving the Kia Soul EV might be Zen-like, but charging it is not. It’s a combination game of, Where’s Waldo meets Monopoly. Just like our red and white sweater wearing friend, charging stations are hard to find. Charging on a 240V outlet takes more than four hours, so you give up halfway through the charge (thus the comparison to the Monopoly board game). Once fully charged, the battery lasts 93 miles, the equivalent of having a two-gallon gasoline tank in a Toyota Prius.
How can something so zen-like generate so much stress? It’s soothing and frustrating all at the same time. The instant torque of the 81.4 kW electric motor pleases the soul. Stoplights and traffic are where this cars shines. The powerful electric motor allows you to zip past the gasoline chugging clunkers. The regenerative braking system makes 395 South gridlock in DC bearable. The regenerative braking system alone is a reason to buy this vehicle. Once you lift your foot off the accelerator, the car instantly starts slowing down and puts energy back into the batteries. It’s a win-win for everyone.
The frustration begins when it is time to fill up the battery. This requires high voltage electricity. Kia lent me a chargepoint membership card so I could charge my car for free at designated chargepoint stations. Yay! There is a downside, most of the chargepoint charging stations are in exclusive parking garages. Finding a chargepoint station, is like having a free gas card, that you can only use at Exxon stations, and are they all located in underground parking garages that you have no plans to park in.
If that doesn’t sound like fun, there is another option. Most EV owners install a charging station at their home to avoid the frustrations of finding a charging station locally. This is a great option, but it won’t be the solution for everyone. For those without the space, or renting, it’s not an option at all.
If you do have the means and space and decide to install a charging station at home to pair with your Soul EV, you will benefit from a UVO infotainment and connectivity platform. This brings automobiles into the 21st century by controlling your car through your smartphone. From the comfort of your bed you can turn on the car, or warm/cool the interior cabin. UVO turns the Kia Soul EV into your new cold winter morning sauna sanctuary.
Sitting in traffic in the Kia Soul EV is a great place spend time. The seats are supportive, comforting, and leather trimmed. They are heated and cooled, so no matter your current state of temperature, the Kia Soul EV is there to comfort you. Even the people you least like, the rear passengers, have the option of heating their bums. These are odd luxury items for Kia to offer in an electric vehicle . We had them in our Sorento tester, but most electric vehicles are focused on efficiency
The Kia Soul’s great visibility and excellent high seating position allows you to cruise through gridlock with ease. Even backing up is a pleasure with a rear camera display, audible beeping outside the car to warn pedestrians and front and rear parking sensors. Although, if its like the system in our Sorento, you may back in a damn wall. That’ll decrease your Zen real quick.
The Kia Soul is quietly eco-friendly. That its biggest downfall. The reason the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, and Toyota Prius sell better, is that people know you are in an “green” vehicle. It makes you feel important. In the Kia Soul EV, the only thing that differentiates it from the regular Kia Soul is the price. It’s more expensive, not exactly an enticing offer.
There are a couple hurdles you need to overcome if you want to own a Kia Soul EV: range and charging. I am a city dweller so range isn’t too much of an issue. Its 93 miles of range is suitable for the majority of my driving.
Charging is a big issue. Electric vehicles run on high energy density batteries. Like your cellphone, they need to be kept charged, except your cellphone can be charged in a few hours on your standard 120V outlet. Without the dedicated charging point described above, this same electrical outlet is what you use to charge your massive 27kWh battery in your Kia Soul EV. Seems silly, and it is. Plugging the Kia Soul EV into my home outlet to get a full charge, with over 60 miles of range left in the battery, would take a ridiculous 10 plus hours. The special 240V outlet will still only cut those charge times in half.
Kia is known as a car company that you get the best bang for your buck, you get many standard features that most automobiles companies charge extra for. In the Kia Soul EV, even with the government’s $7,500 tax credit, I don’t see the value. Although it could be a great car for city dwellers, the range and charging constraints mean it may have to be a second or third car for most.
It’s tough for me to be hard on the Kia Soul EV. Not only do I want to like it, I want to love it. Any company pushing for advanced vehicle technologies, like electric vehicles, should be praised. It’s also produced in one of my favorite places, Korea, the birthplace of Gangnam Style and my lovely girlfriend. But alas, the Kia Soul EV isn’t the Korean smash hit of Gangnam Style. After my short week-long marriage to the Kia Soul EV, I couldn’t find it in my heart to keep on loving it. It’s time to hand back the keys and file for a divorce.