Text by Yousef Alvi
What are compliance cars? Well – back in 2012, the infamous CARB regulators in California decided that the 6 most popular manufacturers in the state must produce a Zero Emission Vehicle & sell it to the general public. If they do not, then they can’t sell squat in CA. This caused a windfall in the industry because California is obviously hugely significant for sales. So the industry laced up and got to work. Now add that to all the mandatory fuel economy standards the Federal Government is imposing, you being to see why there is a hybrid and/or electric version of most everything on the road.
Take a gander at any of your favorite makes, and you’ll see an hybrid/ev model hidden in there. Sometimes they’re displayed front & center (like the Nissan Leaf), and sometimes they are hidden in the background (like the Ford Focus). But trust me, they are out there somewhere. Once you set your eyes on those battery-laden steel chariots, the first words out of your mouth is probably ‘’Ew’’. Not really what they were going for, but let’s be honest here… there are very few EV cars out there that will elicit sexy responses other then ‘ew’. It’s because these cars were designed in a wind tunnel. NOT for race-bred lines, not for top speed… but to cut through the air as non disruptively & nerdy as possible.
But you have a bit of a different story here. The Kia Soul is just quirky & cool enough to pull off an electric powertrain… without being smug, holier-than-thou, and annoying like a Leaf or a Prius. On the other hand – the Kia Soul EV has enough noticeability to stand out as an EV. It doesn’t look like a normal, boring, sensible car. It looks carefree & fun, as an EV should. Who wants to drive an EV that looks exactly like its gas-powered counterpart, right? If you’re gonna get an EV, you may as well have a little bit of fun with it – and the Soul carries the right image.
The Kia Soul EV is not just some compliance car whose range is nill. This is the second longest range car you can buy on the market. With is 93 mile range (the internet has been getting up to 120), it will get you from your job, to the grocery store, to your friend’s house, and back home all in one charge! It’s got two different charging ports up front, one for standard 110/240 and then the High Voltage DC. If you got a 240 in your garage, then you’re set because it will charge from dead to full in about 8 hours, if you have access to a High Voltage outlet near you, it will do so in thirty minutes! But let’s be honest here, in my week of driving this car, it never dipped below 40%, so you can usually charge up the car with a 110v in a few hours – and be in your way
Now most reviews on electric cars take place in a tight metropolitan environment. But I drove this car in the suburbs – where there are faster speeds, longer ranges, more parking, and less public charging stations. This is where the Kia Soul EV’s range & charging port infrastructure truly gets put to the test. I’m also in a disadvantage because I don’t have a 240v in my garage. So could I get through 7 days without running out of juice? Yup – I did it without a single worry. The Nav system in the Soul is programmed to show you the nearest charging stations so you can plan your trip accordingly. The best news – no matter where you look or where you are… there is usually a charging station within a few miles of you! You don’t realize how common the charging stations actually are, until you’re behind the wheel of an EV. It’s a big improvement compared to even a few years ago, where they were fewer and farther between.
Smmmoooottthhh. That’s the keyword driving this car. Driving an EV will change your entire mindset on these types of cars. If you think about it, a gas-powered vehicle has so many moving parts, compared to an electric vehicle. Parts that add weight, add grease, rob the car of power & response-time… and parts that wear out. When you drive an EV, there is really one moving part to a DC motor and that’s it. Combine it with 1 continuous gear, and it gives you a peaceful smoothness that even a Rolls Royce cannot touch. It’s entertaining to drive… perhaps in a different way than you’re accustomed to. But the beauty of a DC motor is instant torque. The second you put your right foot down it just goes! There is no torque curve, no buildup of spool, no drivetrain transfer, no waiting for vtec to kick in… just move your right foot down a smidge and you’re off! And with the Soul EV – you’re off with 5 friends in the car. And you’re off with heated/cooled front seats (heated in the rear), huge Nav screen, and a kicking sound system! And – the Soul EV has 60/40 fold down rear seats and a respectable cargo area that will swallow most things you’ll throw at it!
• While the Nav screen is programmed to show you the nearest charging stations, if you want the most up to date information, download the Plugshare app to your phone. It will show you the nearest station, whether or not it’s operational, a Google Streetview image, and reviews. You can also plan your trip – with Plugshare showing you the charging stations en route to your destination. With all the above info available, it virtually eliminates the dreaded ‘range anxiety’.
• All the weight of the the Batteries in the Kia EV are in the floorboard. What that means to the spirited driver, is that the center of gravity is nice and low – yielding pretty nimble handling characteristics. The only thing that hampers it is the low resistance tires that came factory, but put some stickier tires on there, and this thing will be pretty fun! Just be prepared for wider, stickier tires to possibly decrease that range.
• The Soul EV isn’t what one would call ‘fast’. But the torque is immediately responsive, which makes it feel satisfactorily punchy. On the gear selector there is a B mode, which means Regenerative braking mode. Basically when you lift off the throttle, the Soul EV automatically partially brakes for you to recharge the battery. Now if you’re trying to string together some corners it becomes pretty entertaining. You modulate the throttle where the car will shift the weight to the nose, take the corner, then nail the throttle past the apex (ride that instant torque), then rinse and repeat. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll miss it in a regular gas-powered car.
• You can program the Soul EV to ‘wake up’ when you do. You can set the Soul to start the climate control at 8:45am and/or 6:00pm, so when you get in the car after work or when you wake up, it’s already cooled/heated up for you! And since there are no emissions, you won’t run the risk of gassing yourself while it’s in the garage!