This is not going to be your standard car review.
Oh sure, I can tell you that I liked the 2015 Kia Soul EV. It’s basically your standard Kia Soul with a battery and electric motor swapped for the gasoline stuff. While its zero to sixty time isn’t quite as good as the gas version, I actually thought the low-end performance was even better. Taking off from a stop light I could chirp the tires. Pushing on the accelerator while already moving just felt more responsive. If you like the regular Soul, you’ll like the electric version (once you get past the shock of seeing the price of the EV model – my test car was $36,625).
But then, that’s the usual stuff of car reviews. This article is about the electric experience.
I’m going to tell you right now that the only people who should buy purely electric cars are the ones who have their act together. If you regularly drive on fumes and coast into gas stations, don’t even think about going electric. If you forget to put out the garbage or close the garage door at night, it’s not going to be any easier to remember to plug-in the car’s battery.
The Kia Soul EV is not the first electric car I’ve tested. I’ve learned to make sure they get plugged in every night before going to bed. That’s especially important because I don’t have a 240 charging station in my garage. I just plug it in to a standard 110 outlet. Most electrics take about four hours with the 240 charger, twice as long with the 110. Kia says that the Soul can recharge 80% of its power in as little as 33 minutes with the 240 charger.
My story really begins the night I forgot to plug in the Soul. Fortunately, I hadn’t driven a lot the day before, so when I awoke that Saturday morning, I still had about 50 miles of charge left. That compares to the 93 I would have had on a full charge. I ran some errands and then plugged it in for a few hours in the afternoon.
The adventure came that evening. We had an event to attend that was 32 miles away. Unfortunately, the Soul’s charge only showed that it was good for a total of 58 miles, meaning the 64 mile round trip would be pushing the limit.
For some reason, I was in the mood to give it a try. After all, I’ve found that by driving electric cars judiciously, you can coax a few extra miles. So off we went to our event. With gasoline cars, the best way to stretch the mileage is to hit the freeway, set the cruise control on 55, and never touch the brake or the accelerator. That doesn’t work with electric cars. At 55 miles per hour you can almost hear the 81 watt motor just sucking the charge out of the battery. The first thing I did was turn off the climate control. The range instantly jumped, giving us a precious five more miles. For the first time, I noticed that one stretch of the freeway had a slight incline, just enough to eat a little more power.
We arrived at our event with the display showing we had 24 miles left. I had checked the Soul’s navigation system to see if there were any charging stations nearby. Unfortunately, none were within a few miles, and even then there was no guarantee they’d be open on a Saturday night. My only option was to drive around the building hosting the event until I found an unused 110 outlet. I plugged in and breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it would likely be enough to get home.
I’m not sure if it was the outlet, or the charging cable, but when we came out a couple of hours later, the range had only climbed to 28 miles. That would leave us four miles short of our home.
Off we went. I was going 53 mph on a 65 mph highway. It still wasn’t enough. I used my phone’s navigation to track how many miles were left and the freeway speeds were eating electricity way too fast.
With about 14 miles to go, I pulled off the freeway. I knew it would help me in two ways. First, I’d be going 35 mph which would allow the charge to last a bit longer. Second, I knew the system would create additional electricity every time I had to brake or ease off the throttle.
I should mention that with about 25 miles to go, the main display began to issue warnings. The Soul’s brain kept telling me that I was in trouble (as if I didn’t know!). Every time I reset it, the warning would come back again.
Fortunately, my desperate plan worked. The combination of city streets and the occasional downhill saved enough electricity that we pulled into the driveway with 2% of the remaining power.
To be completely honest, we could have driven my wife’s car that night with its gasoline tank that can be refilled at one of the twelve million stations along our route. I just thought giving the Soul a try would be a bit of an adventure. To be even more honest, it’s an adventure my wife did not enjoy.
Which brings me back to my point. If you’re not the kind of person who plans ahead, an electric car is not for you. At least not until quick charging technology and availability takes big leap. On the other hand, if you’re the kind who balances your checkbook regularly and finishes your taxes in February, the 2015 Kia Soul EV could give you the joy of never buying gasoline again.