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2020 Kia Soul EV — Efficiency, Highway Range, & Charging Compared To Competitors

Kia has unveiled the 2020 Kia Soul EV, giving it much improved range based on the same great battery and powertrain as its younger Korean siblings. Once again, the Hyundai–Kia due is showing its ability to make compelling and affordable EVs.

Kia has unveiled the 2020 Kia Soul EV, giving it much improved range based on the same great battery and powertrain as its younger Korean siblings. Once again, the Hyundai–Kia due is showing its ability to make compelling and affordable EVs.

We know that the Soul will have the same 64 kWh battery pack option as its siblings, the Kia Niro EV and the Hyundai Kona EV. It will also likely have very similar DC charging capabilities (CCS plug).

We don’t yet know what the real-world range of the Soul will be (Kia has vaguely mentioned “over 200 miles”), but we can make decent estimates based on the fact that it has essentially the same powertrain as its siblings. We know that the Soul has slightly lower aero efficiency than its siblings due to its characteristic boxy shape. The good news is that the 2020 version has a refreshed shape and appears to have a slightly more slippery aero profile than the current Soul EV. The height may also have been trimmed fractionally. Take a look (2020 version in unmistakable fluorescent yellow, current version in blue):

Here’s a comparison of the front profiles, showing more noticeable changes:

We already know that the shared powertrain of these 3 Korean siblings has excellent efficiency. How much does the Soul’s boxy character influence efficiency at highway speeds compared to the Kona and Niro?

The current-generation Soul EV has a drag coefficient of 0.35 Cd, compared to the Kona’s 0.29 Cd. Their frontal area is very similar. I estimate that the revised 2020 Soul’s drag coefficient will be in the range 0.32–0.33 Cd, thanks in part to what is likely a fractionally smaller frontal area than the previous generation, due to being slightly shorter. The side mirrors also appear to have been tweaked. Where the current Soul has around a 21% higher overall aero profile than the Kona, the 2020 Soul may be just 12–15% higher. At 70 mph to 75 mph  (113–120 km/h) highway speeds, a 12–15% aero hit will usually amount to an approximate 6–7.5% overall energy efficiency hit (the powertrain efficiency and rolling resistance are more constant).

Summing all of this up, we can expect an EPA highway range rating for the 2020 Soul EV to be approximately 210–213 miles (compared to the Kona’s 226 miles), and an EPA combined range rating of approximately 240–250 miles (compared to the Kona’s 258 miles). Note that the EPA combined rating biases more towards a low- and moderate-speed driving cycle, where aero efficiency is much less of a factor. The EPA highway rating does closely approximate real-world range on long journeys at steady highway driving speeds (70–75 mph) in decent conditions. Don’t pay much attention to WLTP ratings, as these remain (for now at least) a political fudge between powerful carmakers and weak regulators. They are much less representative of real-world range.

Our latest CleanTechnica EV driver survey shows that having 220 miles or more of real-world range is a highly desirable option for those who want to jump onboard the EV revolution. The Soul gets the job done, likely providing around 200 miles of real-world range even at highway speeds, and 240+ miles at low to moderate speeds. Let’s look at how the Soul’s range and charging compares to its siblings and other affordable EVs.

The figures in the below chart are a comparative guide, and based on real-world data of driving at a constant speed of 75 mph (120 km/h) — slightly more demanding than the EPA highway cycle, which approximates to closer to 70 mph (112 km/h):

The blue bars indicate 90% of the total range because, just like in any car, you don’t count on driving from full down to empty before planning a top-up. Rather, you drive from full down to around 10%. The indicated range added from 30 minutes of charging (the green bars) is based on optimal charging rates from stations capable of supplying the full power (up to 72 kW) that the Korean EVs can take advantage of. In practice, these would need to be 80+ kW or 100+ kW capable charging stations. However, most current CCS charging stations in several parts of Europe and much of the US are capped at 50 kW, thus only allowing these EVs to charge at around two-thirds of their maximum charge power (up to ~48 kW in practice). Thus, the more typical range added from 30 minutes of charging in most locations in 2018 will be only two-thirds of the optimal range indicate in the graph.

The good news for EVs fitted with CCS plugs is that charging infrastructure is quickly improving. Switzerland, Austria, western Germany, the Netherlands, and southern Scandinavia already have a reasonable density of 100+ kW CCS chargers on main highways, and these are increasing and spreading to wider areas month by month. There’s a similar story in the US, with coastal areas starting to see more 100+ kW chargers, and other parts of the country filling out along major highways over the next year or so.

Hyundai and Kia have hinted that 100 kW charging may be possible on both the Niro and the Soul in the future. This should be taken with a pinch of salt (it would require 275 amp charging, which is a bit of a stretch). For now, the charts above indicate the optimal charging performance that has been demonstrated in the real world so far.

Teslas already have the strong advantage of a dense (and ever-growing) supercharging network that guarantees convenient recharging at optimal rates throughout western Europe and the US. They can also charge at close to, or over, 100 kW (120 kW for the long range), giving great added range from a quick 30 minute charge. We don’t yet know the real-world charging speeds of the standard and mid-range variants, but the chart gives reasonable working estimates. There’s also a possibility that the soon-to-arrive Supercharger version 3.0 will boost the Model 3’s charging rates further still, perhaps slightly north of 150 kW for the larger battery models. But again, the chart indicates what we have seen in practice so far.

The chart demonstrates that, even at fast highway speeds (75 mph, 120 km/h) the Korean EVs can make a journey of close to 300 miles (483 km) with just one 30 minute charging break, in optimal circumstances. On longer journeys, it would be preferable to charge for at least 45 minutes (Kona) or 50 minutes (Niro, Soul) to add 2 hours (150+ miles, or 240+ km) of onward highway speed range in a mid-trip scenario. That’s likely fine for many families with young kids and for occasional road trippers who aren’t in a great rush.

On slower 50 kW chargers, 60–70 minutes charging will be necessary to add another 2 hours of highway speed driving. That’s a sit-down meal break, which many folks will be happy to fit in during a 350 mile journey (that’s 5 hours of highway driving). An hour-or-so’s meal break on a long journey undertaken a couple of times a year is no big deal. In an EV, this is more than outweighed by saving ~10 minutes every week to visit a gas station. That’s 8.5 hours a year saved right there.

Also worth remembering is that, if you have access to an overnight plug, EVs require no extra effort to start a long journey from home with a “full tank” able to cover around 200 miles without any break. That’s not the case for any gas car. What proportion of the time does a gas car already have enough fuel in the tank to make a 200 mile journey without a taking time out for a top-up?

These EVs make for compelling all-round vehicles for most folks, and will save a ton of money over their lifetimes compared to owning a gas car. The Soul will likely be on the road from Q3 or Q4 2019. Like the Kona and Niro, the Soul will be in limited supply in all markets for the foreseeable future, so if you like the styling and the overall package suits you, be sure to get your reservation in as early as possible.

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