Kia took a bold leap into the electric-vehicle market by bolting a 109-horsepower electric motor into its second-most-popular model, the Soul. Expected to become available in Connecticut in 2015, the electric Soul has more range than many EVs – 93 miles – so it actually brings a degree of functionality, accompanied by the familiar Soul style, to the zero-emissions game.
We drove our 2015 Soul EV a few hundred miles across seven days, charging it at work and at home using the slowest of three charging systems – a 120-volt, three-pronged wall plug. It can take up to 24 hours to bring a dead battery to full charge; we usually required about 12 hours.
Upgrade to a home-based 240-volt system – at a cost of at least several hundred dollars, not counting installation fees – and you’ll be able to charge up your Soul in four to five hours. DC fast or quick chargers, available at many public charging stations, can light the Soul’s fuse in less than an hour.
For us, the bottom line was fairly simple. We had to get used to driving with the electrical equivalent of the low-fuel indicator light glowing constantly. But we suffered no range anxiety because our round-trip commutes were well within the Soul EV’s capability.
Powering the Soul EV’s electric motor is a 27-kilowatt-hour lithium ion polymer battery. It’s powerful enough for most drivers, thanks in part to the electric motor’s high torque rating of 210 lb.-ft. In fact, we’d be willing to give up a little muscle for a little more range.
In looks and personality, the Soul EV is practically indistinguishable from the conventional Soul. The tipoff is the grille: The Soul EV doesn’t have one. Instead, it has two solid panels where the grille normally goes. The driver’s side panel opens to reveal the charging port.
There’s one other difference that may matter to some Soul shoppers. Rather than squeeze drivers and passengers into a cramped cabin, Kia sacrificed cargo room to make room for the battery. Thus, maximum cargo space is 61.3 cubic feet in the conventional Soul, 49.5 cubic feet in the EV.
Otherwise, the driving experience is similar, with one big difference: The unearthly silence. There’s a little wind noise and a little road noise, but little else.
The Soul EV reportedly saves its owners $8,000 in fuel costs over five years, but beware: gasoline prices have been plummeting, and the Soul EV costs thousands more than a conventional Soul. One reason for the $36,625 price is the very high level of interior, comfort and convenience features. Thrifty buyers might not want leather upholstery, navigation, and heated and ventilated front seats, but Kia doesn’t sell a “stripped” Soul EV in the United States.
Still, this model makes a lot of sense for people who tend to drive short distances, and who derive satisfaction from cruising silently past one gasoline station after another.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: Synchronous electric motor, 109 horsepower, 210 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 1-speed direct drive
Weight: 3,289 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 16×6.5-in. alloy
Tires: 205/60R16 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 18.8 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 49.5 cu. ft.
Range: 93 miles
Fuel economy equivalent: 120 city, 92 mpg highway