A bit later than usual, I can share with you the report of my Kia Soul EV 3rd year of ownership that basically spanned the whole year of 2020, now clocking over 49,000 km (31,000 miles).
And what a year 2020 was, right? But before sharing how the Covid pandemic affected my EV experience, let’s start with the last days of 2019.
Not Your Average Mechanic
A couple of weeks after returning from Sweden to my home in Portugal in December to spend the winter there, our Kia had an “encounter of the 3rd degree” with a wall, scratching the left back door, which forced us to take our EV to a local repair shop.
A couple of days after leaving it there, I went back to the shop to bring it back home, to which the repair shop owner asked me:
Mechanic: Is this your car?
Mechanic: Are you happy with it?
Me: Yes, I am…
Mechanic: How much range does it have?
Me: Depends — in the summer it can go up to 230 km (144 miles), but in winter it drops to 200 (125).
After this introduction, we had a lively conversation, and when I mentioned that I worked in the EV world, he said:
Mechanic: I knew it!
Mechanic: The moment I saw this car, I instantly thought, ‘The owner knows his s**t.’ This isn’t a car that John Doe from the corner buys. This is something that was bought after some deliberation. Am I right?
Me: Uhhh … yeah.…
Mechanic: You must have searched the best EV to buy for your budget with your mental algorithm and found this model, right?
(At this point I was like: “What the hell?… How does he knows all this? Am I in a secret Mentalist stunt? Is he a psychiatrist on top of being a car mechanic?…”)
Me: Yes, you’re right. How do you know all this?
After this dialogue, he explained to me how he came to this conclusion, and ended up saying that he saw EVs as a superior technology that wasn’t quite ready for the mainstream buyer (I disagreed, of course…), but that it wouldn’t take long for them to take center stage in the automotive world.
This conversation lasted for hours, as the shop owner was a true Wikipedia. We discussed a wide range of topics besides cars (and why he has a love affair with his old Porsche 911) — politics (“The real danger isn’t Ventura — Portuguese Trump apprentice — himself, but the people behind him. If these people access power, things can get scary,” he said), food, travels, etc.
This guy was living proof that car mechanic stereotypes are just that … stereotypes.
This was at the end of the last normal year 2019, and 2020 started regularly, with my Soul EV adding up kilometers without anything to talk about. (“This car is so reliable to the point it is starting to become boring,” I thought.) Until …
One cold February morning, I got close to the car, pressed the “Open doors” command key … and nothing.
Nothing responded. The car was stone cold dead.
The reason? The 12V battery was dead.
This was the first fail of the Kia, followed in May by the key fob battery, the second thing to break down on an otherwise clean sheet.
With these auxiliary batteries breaking down, how was the main lithium-ion EV battery doing?
Thankfully, it is still running as if it just came out of the factory — no battery degradation whatsoever. And, occasionally, when the temperature, road, and driving style are just right, it even beats the 250 km (156 mi) rating of the NEDC cycle.
Covid Lockdown & My Soul EV
The March/April Covid-related lockdown would have been the perfect opportunity to see that kind of range … but by then we didn’t need to fill up the battery anyway. After all, the Kia was only being driven once every two weeks to go the supermarket on the other side of town, and not because we needed to — after all, we had a grocery store a 10 minute walk from our home — but as an excuse to drive it.
During those two months, we added some 20 km (13 mi) to our Soul EV.
So, after lockdown, we were eager to travel, and our first trip was to Lisbon, some 40 km (25 mi) away. In the beginning, it felt like we were starting a cross-continent trip. Excited, we celebrated the first time we had left our town in two months, then the first time we went on the highway in two months, and then the first time we drove through Lisbon’s streets since February (which were still much less crowded than normal).
It was feeling like we had been relieved of a large burden, and even the fact that we had to stop at a fast charger felt great, instead of the usual charging anxiety that usually precedes public charging. (Will the charger be online? Will we have to wait? For how long?)
Pushing the (Range) Limits
In May, we made several trips, resuming our visits up north, to visit our folks, and on one occasion deciding to go along the coast, which was a more scenic route but also riskier, because it had only one fast charger on the way.
The Electromaps app showed that charger had been online for a while, so we were confident that we wouldn’t have any problems once we got there. Only …
… when we got to the charger, the screen was black.
Even so, I tried to charge anyway, but without any luck, so I called the customer care line on the other side. The operator was surprised that the charger wasn’t working and said:
On my screen it says that charger is okay.
To which I replied:
Well, it may say that on your end, but I am in front of it, the screen is black, and it doesn’t charge. Do you want me to take a picture, so that I can prove it to you?
Operator: Oh, no, that won’t be necessary, I will report it and soon a team will go there and fix it…
Me: … And how soon is “soon?”
Operator: Tomorrow, or the day after. …
So, basically, they couldn’t help me. I was screwed. And because I expected that fast charger would be online, I hadn’t exactly been “driving slow” on the first part of the trip, hurting my Kia’s range even more. By that time, it was below 90 km (56 mi).
With the next fast charger some 70 km (44 mi) away, I had to do some hypermiling to get there safely. So, no AC, smooth acceleration, and maximizing use of regeneration were all important. It made the second half of the trip a bit nerve racking.
But we did make it to the next fast charger, with just 27 km (17 mi) of range left, which was a new low in range for me. After waiting some 20 minutes for our turn (queues at fast chargers here are kind of normal), we finally got to charge, and some 20 minutes later, we were on our way to the final stretch of the trip.
These are the types of scares you can get when you don’t have a Plan B on your trip!
After 12 years in Lisbon, we decided to go back to our roots and return to the north of Portugal, close to Porto. (For people not familiar with Portugal, it’s like moving from sunny Los Angeles to windy San Francisco.) This came with the added bonus that moving from an apartment to a new house meant our Kia would finally have a ceiling over its head, so no more baking under the sun in the summer. And above all, it would allow for home charging!
Home charging is a big plus, because it basically removes charging anxiety from the picture. No more searching for available chargers and praying they aren’t busy! And because it would have solar PV panels, my Kia would run on sunshine! Yeeeey!
But before all that EV Nirvana, we would need to move our stuff to the new house, and once again, our Soul EV did great, especially because of the high and straight ceiling. Our EV was transformed into a sort of van. It could have been even more usable if the back seats could fold completely flat — this small detail eats a little bit of height in the middle of the car — but nevertheless, our Soul transported all sorts of things during this period, from boxes, to plants, to furniture, to a dishwasher, etc, etc.
A true utility vehicle in a small footprint.
Regarding the home charging, we chose an AC charger from Wallbox, the 22 kW Pulsar, which allows us to charge our Soul EV at its maximum AC charge rate (about 7 kW), meaning that it can be fully charged in some 4 hours. However, because our PV panels have a peak of 5 kW, we decided to limit the charge rate to 4kW, which is more than enough given that we usually charge from 30% to 80%. So, one morning or afternoon of charge does the trick of running our Soul on sunshine.
One thing that caught me off guard, though, was that I forgot that my 2017 Kia Soul EV had a Type 1 AC plug, while the home charger came with a Type 2 connector. … So, when I realized that, I had to search the internet for a Type 1 to Type 2 adaptor.
Another bonus of the home charging is that it allows us to use the programmed pre-heating feature of the Kia, which allows us to get into the car at a warm temperature, regardless of the freezing temperature outside, while also optimizing the performance of the battery, as that too can be pre-warmed by the system.
And while freezing temperatures are relatively rare in Lisbon (you might see frost in the morning just a couple of times during the year), in Porto that is a lot more common, as that can happen for several weeks. That makes another feature of the Kia far more important: heated seats and steering wheel.
Ahhh, yes, heated steering wheel — something I thought at first was just another gizmo I would rarely use. Now, spending the winter in the North of Portugal, it has become a must have.
And probably another factor as to why the first-generation Kia Soul EV was so popular in Norway.
Three years and over €3,000 of savings later, we continue to appreciate the comfort and instant torque of the Soul EV, with the utility being the icing on the cake. It is a great companion to run around in urban areas with and also make the occasional long trip. After all, with the right use of fast chargers (and assuming they exist and are available…), one can go a long way with a 200-something km (125+ mile) range electric car.
With the EV way of life now becoming the new normal, when we use our other vehicle, an ICE crossover, there are a few things that now shock us. One of those is the price of fuel. (Whaaat???? €50 to fill up the tank?!?!? What the …?) Then, there’s the fact that using a manual gearbox in an urban environment becomes a pain in the rear, and passing other cars becomes something that you actually need to think about, instead of just slamming the accelerator of our EV and overtaking the other vehicle.
Oh, and it helps to save the planet, apparently. …