By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Seattle ? The last time we drove a Kia Soul EV you couldn?t even buy one where we live in Southern Washington, near Portland they were only sold in parts of California. But as supplies of vehicles is increased, fast chargers are installed and the dealership personnel are trained and equipped that has all changed.
Kia is adding 20 new dealerships in Oregon and Washington certified to sell the popular Soul EV, and they are also expanding Soul EV distribution to Georgia, Texas and Hawaii, this summer.
Along with the increased distribution the dealers are being equipped with two Level-2 chargers to increase Kia?s network of fast-charging stations, where Kia Soul EV owners will be allowed to charge their vehicles at no cost. About half the dealers will also have a 50kW Signet FC50K-CC-S DC fast charger available for use. This fast charger can charge the Soul EV?s battery from empty to 80 percent in about 33 minutes.
Kia has also partnered with Greenlots, a vehicle charging management company, to offer easy access to large networks of charging stations. Through the Greenlots partnership, Soul EV owners will be provided a Kia??ChargeUp??Card?, giving them access to multiple DC fast charger networks.
?With the level of interest the Soul EV has received in the eco-friendly states of Washington and Oregon, it was only natural for us to expand into the region and make our electrified urban passenger vehicle available to customers who not only want to be eco-conscious, but stylish as well,? said Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning, Kia Motors America.? ?Kia is committed to making sure Soul EV customers in the Pacific Northwest are adequately covered, which is why we?re also installing DC fast chargers and offering free charging at select dealers.?
When we drove the first Soul EV six months ago we discovered it wasn?t much different than driving the popular gasoline-powered model. Obviously it?s quieter and smoother, but it accelerated comfortably and even passes quickly when necessary. Unless you are pulling up to a charger, or someone is ?into? electric cars most people won?t notice much difference. Visually, the aerodynamic-looking wheels, the solid grille area and the logo on the back are the only external differences.
We each drove with a different driving partner on a drive in the Seattle area recently logging about 80 miles. As we started off from downtown Seattle the range indicator registered 93 miles and we each returned with a healthy 15 to 30 mile reserve. With that sort of range it would be easy to develop a comfort level that might start to mitigate the normal range anxiety that often haunts new electric vehicle drivers.
The Soul EV is Kia?s first venture into pure electric vehicles, and they picked one of their most popular models to represent the brand?s efforts in the all-electric-zero emissions arena. The hip urban crossover was initially designed to use either a gas or electric drivetrain, so the 109-hp electric motor fits nicely under the hood in place of the gasoline engine. The motor produces 210-lb.ft. of torque giving it a spunky response when stepping or stomping on the accelerator. Under full acceleration, the Soul hums up to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds according to a buff magazine. The motor is liquid cooled and uses multi-layer magnets which improve efficiency and reduce the familiar electric motor whine, in fact inside we could hear no whine. The Soul EV has a top speed electronically limited to 90 mph.
The standard navigation system in the Soul EV also shows how far you can go on the current charge level and will give you a list of nearby charge stations, should your range anxiety and range gauge collide, and you feel the need to charge.
The battery tucks nicely under the rear seat area and the flat design minimizes intrusion into the cabin reducing rear leg room by about three inches, but it still has more legroom than some competitors. Rear cargo space remains unchanged at a spacious 18.8 cubic feet, so it shouldn?t limit shopping purchases.
The 27kWh lithium battery is larger than the competitor batteries which range from 20 to 24 kWh — that means better range. The extra battery power gives this new Soul EV an estimated 93 mile range and earns it an EPA MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) rating of 92 miles highway and 120 miles city and a combined rating of 105 miles.
In addition to charging when it?s plugged in the Soul EV also uses Kia?s third-generation regenerative braking system which can capture up to 12 percent of the car?s kinetic energy, which is fed back into the battery while the Soul EV is coasting and braking.?The car has four drive mode combinations to allow the driver to program the car for the type of driving, and that can affect the battery usage.
The 2015 Kia Soul EV pricing starts at $33,950 plus the destination charge, however when you factor in the $7,500 federal tax credit, the price looks reasonable at $26,450. There is one other trim level (EV+) which adds leather seating, parking assist, fog lights, heated and ventilated front seats and power folding outside mirrors for $2,000 more. One feature we?d like to see is a blind spot warning system, because the large ?C? pillar makes it difficult to see other vehicles in your blind spot. A very affordable option is to lease a 2015 Kia Soul EV. Lease prices for the two models are $249 and $279 respectively, with $1,995 down to qualified buyers.
The Kia Soul EV makes a lot of sense for someone or a family that sticks fairly close to home or uses it for a commuter. Owners can save big by not having to buy gasoline and that provides a nice benefit for the environment. A good scenario would be to have a Kia Soul EV for around town and something like a Kia Optima for trips out of town ? or you could rent a car for the out of town trips.