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Published on April 4th, 2020 | by Jesper Berggreen

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The Kia e-Niro Is As Tough As A Viking, Even In Frigid Nordic Winters

April 4th, 2020 by  


KIA e-Niro — Cold Review Of A Sleek South Korean That Turns Out To Be Tough As A Viking

The Danish Electric Car Owner Association (FDEL) recently posted a great story about the e-Niro. I asked the author, Martin Messer Thomsen of FDEL, if he would like CleanTechnica’s readers to tag along, and he happily agreed. So, without further ado, here’s my translated version of Martin’s Scandinavian trip in the KIA e-Niro.

Image courtesy: Martin Messer Thomsen

e-Niro — Tough As A Viking

The Danish Electric Car Owner Association drove the KIA e-Niro on a genuine Viking trip up through Sweden and Norway in the middle of a frigid winter. The route started out in Copenhagen, went through Oslo to Trondhjem via Gudbrandsdalen, then on to Östersund in Sweden, and back again on Inlandsvägen. Over three days, the team racked up a total of 2,394 km (1,488 miles).

Image courtesy: Martin Messer Thomsen

The Weather

Copenhagen to Oslo: 5 to 7 degrees C (41 to 45 F) with rain and side winds.

Oslo to Trondhjem: -3 to -13 degrees C (27 to 9 F) with sunny skies and no wind.

Trondhjem to Copenhagen: 0 to 8 degrees C (32 — 46 F) with strong headwinds and rain for the last 400 km (249 miles).

The Equipment:

  • Vehicle: KIA e-Niro
  • Battery pack: 64 kWh
  • Equipment level: Comfort (lowest)
  • Tires: winter tires.
  • WLTP Range: 452 km (281 miles)
  • EPA Range: 385 km (239 miles)

I stopped by the Norwegian Electric Car Association (elbil.no) in Oslo to take part in the celebration that the proportion of electric cars in Norway has now reached 10%.

Note from Jesper: That’s 10% BEV and PHEV actually on the road. The share of sales of cars with a plug just passed 75% in Norway! Denmark is far behind Norway’s curve at 1% electric vehicles on the road and sales closing in on 5%.

The trip from Copenhagen to Oslo, apart from bad weather with some side winds and rain, was a very easy trip. I stopped to charge twice. The first stop lasted 35 minutes where I had lunch. The second stop was 55 minutes. Here I had afternoon coffee and a much needed rest. I was driving 110 km/h (68 mph) most of the time. The average energy consumption for this part of the trip was 20.6 kWh per 100 km (33.2 kWh per 100 miles).

Early in the morning on Friday, I drove out of Oslo with a whole bunch of Norwegians on their way to enjoy their winter holidays. Week 8 is when Norway’s official school holiday begins. Late in the afternoon, 6 cars were waiting in the queue at two fast chargers, the only public chargers in the city of Berkåk. I was indeed witnessing Norway’s challenges with queuing at the charging stations on busy days.

Gravel road covered in ice and snow in Sweden. Image courtesy: Martin Messer Thomsen

The Driver Is In Control

The e-Niro drives really well. Electric cars generally drive really well on snow and ice. Their electric motors are able to react quickly when spin is detected in the tires and ease off on the power being applied accordingly. From the driver’s perspective, this is experienced as having good control over the car.

One time on this trip, I stepped on the accelerator while Cruise Control was engaged and since I didn’t know the surface was very slippery, it made the wheels spin right away. Cruise Control turned off immediately and left the control of the car to me. The whole experience felt very safe.

Regenerative braking also works well on ice and snow. If the surface is very slippery and the regenerative brake causes the wheel to lock up, it disengages and you just brake with the mechanical brakes just like in a car with an internal combustion engine. When driving downhill on a slippery road, heavy braking is required before the regenerative brake causes the wheels to lock up on the e-Niro.

Route 27 between Ringebu and Folldal was a really beautiful stretch on this trip, and the road was only partly cleared of snow. Image courtesy: Martin Messer Thomsen

Cold Batteries Charge At Lower Power

I experienced temperatures all the way down to -13 degrees C (7 F) on the trip. Due to the low temperatures, the battery never really reached optimal operating temperature while driving. As a result, charging took longer. The charging speed never went faster than 55 kW, even though I charged at a fast charger that would optimally deliver 350 kW to a car that can receive that kind of power. With a warm enough battery, I have found that the battery in the e-Niro can receive 77 kW. However, the car charged with a stable high power at all the fast chargers I used on the trip.

Ionity charger at Örebro. Image courtesy: Martin Messer Thomsen

Interior

In the cabin, you find yourself comfortably sheltered from the cold outside temperatures. I attribute that to the vehicle’s heat pump and a healthy dose of insulation.

Sitting in the car was comfortable and I had good support in the driver’s seat, even although the backrest can only be adjusted in steps. Only the premium model has a motorize seat adjustment system.

The center screen size is 7″, but since it’s a large car, the screen seems small and a bit difficult to reach. In newer models, the screen is up to 10″ in size.

Interior image from CleanTechnica’s e-Niro review from 2019 by Nicolas Zart

Surprisingly Low Energy Consumption

The energy consumption of an electric car increases when the weather gets cold, because cold air is heavier to push through. Energy consumption also increases when driving with the heat on in the cabin. And, not surprisingly, driving uphill also affects consumption negatively. But what goes up must come down, so some of the energy spent going uphill is recovered going downhill by the regeneration system. On my way up one mountain along the route, I noticed the consumption was over 50 kWh per 100 km (80 kWh per 100 miles). In fact, the overall average consumption was only 19.0 kWh per 100 km (31 kWh per 100 miles) for the entire trip.

I think this is surprisingly low, because I didn’t skimp on heat, it was very cold outside, and I drove over many mountains.

Note from Jesper: This translates to just over 200 miles of real world cold weather range on a full charge with this 64 kWh battery. In my opinion, this battery size is the hot spot for an EV to be truly competitive against comparable gas cars.

Lights

The model I drove had halogen type and my experience was that the low beams do not light up the road very well. The high beam is also halogen, but worked very well.

There is no “Low gear” in an EV, but regenerative braking does the job! Image courtesy: Martin Messer Thomsen

No Planning Needed With 50 kW Fast Chargers

The WLTP range of e-Niro 64 kWh is estimated at 452 km (281 miles) with an EPA rating or 385 km (239 miles). EV-database.org estimates the real range of the car to be around 260 km (162 miles) on the highway in cold weather. On this trip, the car delivered up to 350 km (217 miles) of range in freezing weather on roads at speeds between 60 and 100 km/h (37 to 62 mph). These are common speed limits in Norway and Sweden.

On the route I drove, there are a lot of fast chargers, so there is no need to plan the whole trip in detail from home, especially with the long range of this car. However, during the charging breaks I generally plan ahead for the next stop, but this is because I do not want to mess with GPS or apps while driving.

Inlandsvägen down through Sweden is the only part of the trip where there are 200 to 250 km (124 to 155 miles) between fast chargers, requiring some planning in advance. Inlandsvägen is usually not very crowded, but this Saturday was a changeover day in connection with the winter holidays and therefore quite crowded.

On average, I charged every 200 km (124 miles) on the trip. With the low average speed through Sweden and Norway of 60 to 100 km/h (37 — 62 mph), this corresponds to periods of 2.5 to 3.5 hours of driving. It fits well with the need for a restroom break and there is plenty of time to plan the next charging stop. I charged a total of 16 times, with 14 of those on fast chargers. I used destination chargers at night stops twice.

The fast chargers on the route were 50 kW units and due to the cold weather, I spent about 1 hour to charge from 20 to 80%. On average, I charged for about 45 minutes at each stop.

A practical shelter at the Fortums fast charger in Ringebu to keep operation easy in bad weather.

Plan Ahead If You Want More Than 50 kW

Apart from the stretch along Inlandsvägen, there are plenty of fast chargers on the route, so here are no worries. Still, there are only a few of the new super fast chargers above 50 kW, so you would need to plan ahead if you want to use those. The e-Niro can only charge with power above 50 kW when the battery level is between 0 and 52%. Therefore, you must arrive with a relatively low battery level in order to utilize charging speeds up to 77 kW on the fast chargers. In addition, the battery must be warm enough for the software to dial up the charge power.

The newest version of the e-Niro comes with 3-phase AC charging. This means that home charging can be as fast as 7 hours for a full charge, which is a great advantage if you drive a lot every day. And as mentioned, it is also available with a larger center screen, which is a much needed upgrade in my opinion.

Thanks to KIA Motors Denmark for loan of the car. The reviewer Martin Messer Thomsen paid for all expenses related to the trip.

Author of original text in Danish and photos: Martin Messer Thomsen. 




 

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About the Author

Jesper had his perspective on the world expanded vastly after having attended primary school in rural Africa in the early 1980s. And while educated a computer programmer and laboratory technician, working with computers and lab-robots at the institute of forensic medicine in Aarhus, Denmark, he never forgets what life is like having nothing. Thus it became obvious for him that technological advancement is necessary for the prosperity of all humankind, sharing this one vessel we call planet earth. However, technology has to be smart, clean, sustainable, widely accessible, and democratic in order to change the world for the better. Writing about clean energy, electric transportation, energy poverty, and related issues, he gets the message through to anyone who wants to know better. Jesper is founder of Lifelike.dk.



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