Last fall, we drove the 2015 Kia Soul EV in Northern California and enjoyed its combination of funky looks and solid driving dynamics. But our relatively short route meant that we weren’t able to evaluate a key aspect of the electric-car ownership experience: driving range. When the Soul EV arrived in our Michigan offices, we spent two weeks using the all-electric Soul for the daily grind, commuting and running errands to see how the EPA-rated 93-mile driving range measures up in real-world use. Here are some impressions from editors about their respective experiences with the 2015 Kia Soul EV.
Our goal was to see how an electric car fit into our daily lives, so I tried to avoid any observer effect and drove the Kia Soul EV just as I would any other car. Sure, I might have eked out more miles if I’d hypermiled like Eric in an Audi diesel, but I actually commuted home in my normal fashion: squirting into gaps in traffic, setting the cruise control a modest amount above the speed limit, listening to the radio, and with the climate control set to 70 degrees. In other words, the worst-case scenario for saving kilowatt-hours in an EV.
After driving home, running a quick errand, and driving to a parking garage downtown, I’d traveled 51.4 miles and used up 55 miles of indicated range, giving me another 45 miles until the battery would die. I charged up for free at an Ann Arbor parking garage and got an additional 49 miles of electric range, bringing the total range on the funky LED readout to 91 miles. That was plenty for me to complete my 45-mile commute back to our office the next morning, again driving just as I would in any other car while using headlights, the radio, and the heated driver’s seat. I suffered none of the much-hyped “range anxiety” we’re told afflicts EV drivers.
Even with my lengthy commute, an all-electric car like the Kia Soul EV could probably work for my life — so long as I could charge both at work and at home. Still, I wouldn’t pick one for regular highway commutes. The short driving distances, regenerative braking, and punchy low-end performance of an electric car make sense for a dense city but less so for freeway trips to and from metro Detroit.
-Jake Holmes, associate Web editor
While on paper an electric vehicle may seem like an efficient and logical way to simplify the daily commute, the reality is there is a level of added stress with all electric vehicles. Charge up overnight, charge up in the front row at work, and never stop for gas in between. This concept is enticing until put into practice. Need to run some errands on the way home? Then you’d better make sure to count the miles and use the heater sparingly.
EV concerns aside, the Soul is a good car. With a simple, easy-to-use interior, it’s an attractive package for the tech-hungry buyer. This is an economy car with a heated steering wheel as well as heated and cooled seats, options once only found in the finest of luxury cars. Just be sure there’s enough juice in the battery to make it home with all of the gadgets engaged.
-Sandon Voelker, videographer
Like Jake, I commuted in the 2015 Kia Soul EV as if it were any other car. On my way home from work at night, it was rainy, cold, and dark, which required using a heavy load of electronics including the headlights, windshield wipers, and climate control. I also turned on the heated seat and heated steering wheel, and I listened to the radio. As indicated by a screen in the Soul’s EV menu, these electronics put a fairly significant extra load on the battery pack. This meant that my 44-mile drive reduced the battery from 100 percent down to 43 percent, using up 68 miles of the indicated 107-mile range I started with.
With the gauge cluster showing 39 miles remaining, I knew I wouldn’t have enough juice to make the same commute the next day. Luckily, Ann Arbor has many free charging stations, and I plugged in the Soul EV at a garage near my house for 2.5 hours and brought the battery back up to a 97 percent charge, giving me an indicated range of 97 miles.
I didn’t have to use the windshield wipers or the headlights the next morning, which made more of a difference in my energy consumption than I expected. Even though I drove the same 44-mile commute with a similar driving style, I only used up 50 miles of range this time.
-Joey Capparella, associate Web editor
My short drive home depleted the battery from a 95-mile indicated range down to a 90-mile range. You don’t technically need a dedicated charging station to juice up the battery, so I plugged the car in overnight on an outdoor 110-volt outlet at my house. By morning, the car had tripped the circuit breaker while on the same circuit with my hot tub but had still charged up to an indicated 110-mile range.
-Todd Lassa, executive editor