DANA POINT, CA- Kia is introducing something new in the affordable all-electric car segment style.
With the possible exception of the Ford Focus, all the under $50,000 pure electric cars in Canada are purposely styled to look nerdy as if making the statement, ?look at me, I?m saving the planet?.
The Kia Soul EV (Electric Vehicle) is based on the highly successful Soul five-door.
Penned by world-renown designer Peter Schreyer, the Soul was made to look cool, not the box on wheels it really is, which is why most of Soul?s cube-car competitors have ceased production.
But the advantage of a box on wheels is packaging because you have so much interior space with work with. Soul and Soul EV dimensions are identical, except for the rear seat floor, which is three inches higher to accommodate the under-floor battery pack.
More to the point, the cargo area behind the second row seats is 532 litres, the same as the ?standard? Soul.
At the press launch in California, Kia had three versions, one of which was piano black with Ferrari red roof and trim ? looking fantastic.
So let?s get right to price, which starts at $34,995 for the Base model and $37,995 for the Luxury trim. Off-setting that in Ontario is an $8,500 incentive plus up to $1,000 for a 240-volt charging station and 50 per cent off the installation fee.
At the press launch in California, Kia Canada announced it would offer the 240-volt charger free, meaning the Ontario charger incentive could probably be used to further reduce the asking price.
Range with an all-electric is always an issue. If you run out of juice, you?re dead. Knowing your limits and keeping an eye on the battery charge level actually becomes second nature with experience.
The Kia system, instead of a metal enclosure loaded with lithium-ion cells, uses a polymer lithium-ion battery which can be shaped and formed and it?s a big one at 27 kWh. Combined with an 81.4 kW electric motor and one-speed transaxle it produces 109 hp and a 210 healthy lb/ft of torque.
You can put it in D for Drive or B for Braking, the latter enabling full regenerative braking to harvest kinetic power and feed it back into the battery.
Earlier this year I drove a test mule starting out with a range of 70 km (it had just been driven before I got to it). Using B on a short loop on city streets only, I came back with 73 km remaining, meaning I returned with more range than I left with. Just lift your foot and regeneration slows the EV dramatically, saving the brakes as well.
Fast forward to the press ride-and-drive south of LA with a mixture of freeway, two-lane highway through the coast mountains and city core traffic.
With a range of 97 miles (U.S. spec cars) showing, we covered about 55 miles mostly in B and returned with 39 miles still in reserve.
Official Canadian tested range is 149 km. It?s a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but if this was a fuel-powered vehicle it would be 2.0/2.6/2.2L/100 km city/highway/combined.
And it?s fast too. With 59 lb/ft more torque than the ?normal? 2.0-litre gasoline Kia Soul, it has a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 11.4 seconds reaching a top speed of 145 km/h (90 mph).
Where the Soul EV comes into its own is in daily driving. Canada has an estimated 12 million commuters with 89.5 per cent travelling less than 60 km a day, making a two-way trek possible on one charge.
And the new Soul EV is one of, if not the, greenest cars you can buy in Canada.
It is the first, so far only, car to earn an Underwriters? Laboratory awarding for the high percentage of bio-based material used in the cabin, something Kia is very proud of.
Bio-based plastics using cellulose and sugar cane are used throughout on such components as seat trim, headliner, door panels, roof pillars and carpeting. In all, 23 different interior parts are made with eco-friendly materials.
The Soul EV is the first Kia to use Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology for the instrument cluster that is brighter, but consumes less energy.
The heating and air conditioning system can be programmed for ?driver only? operation that stops all air flow to the passenger side and rear of the car, thus cutting down dramatically on energy draw from the battery.
This is Canada and we all know how much energy electric heat uses. On the Soul EV, it can be set to draw residual heat from inside, such as the battery which can run hot.
To this end, the Kia Soul EV has a battery heating system designed to insulate and warm up the battery in order to minimize the adverse effects of sub-zero temperatures on battery charge.
The Soul EV has two charging ports (120 and 240 volt) that are housed behind a panel at the nose and opened by a lever on the lower instrument panel.
Charging times vary but 4.5 hours is the norm for a 240-volt, but it can take up to 24 hours to fully charge a depleted battery using a 120-volt outlet.
To ensure crash safety, the battery features a ceramic-coated separator within the cell itself to protect the unit, as well as provide overcharge protection, which monitors electrical current and battery temperature.
It?s well known I am skeptical of all-electric cars but with its hip looks and a certified range of almost 150 km, the 2015 Soul EV is starting to make me a believer.