Did you know that when you drive an electric vehicle, random people will wave at you, like you’re a member of some special club? It’s true. I leaned that the other day while driving the 2015 Kia Soul EV. I also figured out that while electric vehicles are getting much more attainable, they still aren’t a realistic choice for me.
I haven’t had a lot of experience with electric cars. I live in West Texas after all, and our infrastructure is simply not yet ready for vehicles which — with the exception of the $71,000 Tesla — typically only get 100 miles or less per charge. The other reason I haven’t seriously considered Electric is because I see less expensive options, such as using smaller motors with unleaded gas, as a more viable option.
That’s not to say that I’m uninterested in the technology, or that I don’t want to see where this all goes, mind you. So of course I was excited to drive the 2015 Soul EV, Kia’s first electric vehicle.
There are currently 11 electric vehicles on the market, and by the end of the year there will be a couple more — including the Soul EV. Electric vehicle sales are increasing, and the Soul EV will be cross-shopped by consumers directly with the Nissan Leaf, the Volkswagen eGolf, the Ford Focus Electric, the Fiat 500e, but because of the Soul’s unique “design, function, and utility,” Kia believes that they have an advantage that these other cars “simply don’t have”.
The Soul EV starts at $33,700, which includes the 27kWh battery, the 6.6 kW On-Board Charger (OBC), DC Fast Charge Port, electronically powered A/C and heat pump, UVO EV services, an 8″ navigation screen (which is bigger than the Leaf’s or the eGolf’s), and you get a rear-view camera and heated seats.
When you upgrade to the Soul EV Plus for $2000 more, in addition to all of those features you’ll also get leather seats, folding side mirrors, front and rear park sense, cooled and heated front seats, and heated rear seats. In other words, the car will come very nicely loaded. You can also lease it for $249 with $1995 down.
If you live in the US, then at the bare minimum, you should qualify for a $7500 tax rebate mentioned in their press release when you buy the 2015 Kia Soul EV. If you live somewhere like Texas, you’ll have to be happy with that, but if you live in California or Colorado, additional local and state discounts can be substantial. You can check them out by looking here and here.
It was just last October when I drove the gas version 2014 Kia Soul in Minneapolis. I was surprised by how much I liked that boxy little car, and much of what I liked in the 2014 model has been carried over into the 2015 EV model’s styling. The color-pulsing door speakers are gone, though. Alas.
I kid! That gimmick was obnoxious fairly quickly! I’m glad that the Soul EV dropped it in favor of saving the energy.
The Kia Soul EV’s state of the art 27kWh Lithium Ion Polymer battery creates 360 volts, and it is packaged neatly underneath the car; we were told that 27kWh is the “energy equivalent of 8/10 of a gallon of gasoline, so when you think about how far this car will run on that amount of energy, it’s truly remarkable.” Kia is very proud of the materials inside the batteries, “we’re talking about a nickel cobalt manganese cathode, which incidentally is the same material that’s used by BMW in the i3 and the same material that’s going to be used in the next generation Volt. A carbon graphite anode, and both of these materials are bathed in a unique gel electrolyte.” More importantly, Kia’s batteries “are oriented towards warm climates for thermal stability and a stable distance to empty.”
Kia also has a great safety story; there is an overcharge protection device, there’s also a fuse for each voltage sensing light, and there are five under-car cross members to support the batteries and protect them.
The 2015 Kia Soul EV has a heat pump which is offered as a standard item, which is 27% more efficient way of combining the heating and AC into one system so that they draw less energy. This maximizes range and maximizes efficiency. There is also a driver-only ventilation button, which shuts off the ventilation to everywhere in the car but the driver’s seat; this is another way to save energy.
The car has many other efficient features including super low-rolling resistance tires, which reduce rolling resistance by another 10% over traditional low rolling resistance tires, which helps maximize range and improve efficiency. There are also aerodynamic improvements, and you get 93 miles of EPA certified range, which is better than Leaf, better than Focus, better than the 500e, better than everything but the $70,000 Tesla Model S, and Kia is very proud of that.
The Kia Soul EV will be offered in four exterior colors including the red and black that we saw during the press conference …
… blue with the white roof (which I drove)…
… and a solid titanium color …
… and an all white color.
The 2015 Kia Soul EV starts with a unique grill up front which hides its charging port. It is easily accessible whether you park on the street or in your garage. The Soul offers standard DC charging, which is not something you will find on the Focus, the 500e, the Rav4 EV, or the Fit EV or some of the other EV models. So when you charge the car on DC, it will charge from empty to 80% in about 33 minutes, and under 240 volt AC in about 4 – 4.5 hours. If you plug into the wall at 120V, it will take about 24 hours. Kia is installing 17 DC fast chargers in the California Kia dealers that will sell the car; all told, they are increasing the number of DC chargers in California by about 9%, which is pretty significant.
The interior of the Soul EV uses corn and sugar as the basis for polymers and substrates that compose about 10% of the interior parts of the car. The headliner, carpet, center console, door panels, the instrument panel, and most of the cargo area trim to do even more to reduce the carbon footprint of the car by using corn and sugar-based renewable materials.
Quietness and safety are also very important, so the structure of the car has a little bit more high strength and ultra high strength steel. It’s a little more rigid, and as mentioned previously, there are five under car cross-car beams to support the batteries and rigidity. There’s a bumper to bumper smooth belly pan that reduces wind noise, and there is increased insulation, so what you find when you dive the car is that it is quiet; it’s a very refined driving experience.
I loved driving it. Other than the fact that the Soul EV beeped when I was backing up in parking lots and was otherwise completely silent, it felt and drove like a regular car to me. That’s a compliment, in case you couldn’t tell.
The only thing different for me, and what I know would be the deal-killer, was that I couldn’t keep my eyes off the numbers to the left of the steering wheel. See the 31 in the picture below? That’s how many miles we had left before we were out of electricity, and I found myself obsessively watching that number tick down point by point.
I had full-blown Range Anxiety. It’s a thing. You can Google it.
As the time spent driving passed, it was soon obvious that in order for it to ever be practical for me to own an electric vehicle, it would have to have a minimum range of 200 miles; right now, that puts me in a whole different price bracket. But other than that …
The 2015 Kia Soul has an interior that is extremely comfortable and roomy.
Even the back seats weren’t bad.
If you have groceries, luggage, or other items to haul, the 2015 Kia Soul EV can handle it.
The Soul EV also happens to have one of the largest glove boxes I’ve ever seen.
If you want to lease or buy a 2015 Soul EV, there are three charging partners ready to equip your home: Bosch, Leviton, and AeroVironment. You can chose the company that best suits your home and your needs.
UVO Infotainment services have added an extra twist to the 2015 Kia Soul EV; for the first time the system will include an embedded cellular device so that the car can communicate real-time information directly between the vehicle and the driver to manage all of the information needed to manage the electric ecosystem. Kia has partnered with Sirius XM to provide a satellite feed to the vehicle in which the largest database of charging stations and safety information from all different sources. With the new always connected UVO services, you will always be connected to your car; you’ll know its charging status, you’ll be able to tell if the doors are locked or unlocked, you’ll be able to able to get real-time information about your car from anywhere — and it will be free for five years.
I have to admit that there is a part of me that really enjoyed driving an electric car around Southern California; I liked being part of that fraternity of electric car owners, even if it was only for a day. I liked it when people pointed at our car and smiled, and I’ll never forget the cute little boy in the Mercedes B (also electric) waving at my driving partner and me as we drove silently down PCH; we of course immediately waved right back with huge grins on our faces.
Driving an electric vehicle is a tangible way of saying to others that you care about climate change and that you want to protect the environment, and that is definitely something that I think we can all agree is a great thing to want to do. The question for me, at least right now, is whether driving an electric vehicle is actually doing as much as we think it is to make that difference. After all, the electricity which is powering these cars isn’t being produced by magic, and the rare earth elements inside those batteries don’t just materialize because we’ve rubbed on the side of a genie’s lamp.
Until the answers are a bit more clear, and until the infrastructure is in place to allow traveling without range anxiety in between charges, this is one technology I won’t be able to adopt any time soon. But enough about me; what about you? Do you have an electric vehicle, or do you want one? Is range anxiety an issue for you, or have you conquered it? Do you think that owning an electric car now makes sense? Is the 2015 Kia Soul EV a vehicle that you would consider owning?
Disclosure: Kia paid for my travel, room, and meals; there were no conditions or expectations made regarding what I chose to write about with regard to my experience.